Focal symptomatic epilepsy is the most common form of adult-onset epilepsy but can occur in children as well. Focal indicates the abnormal activity causing seizures is coming from a specific part of the brain while symptomatic indicates a cause has been identified. It is also called partial symptomatic epilepsy.
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Several conditions can damage particular areas of the brain, resulting in focal symptomatic epilepsy. Common causes are stroke, trauma, brain abnormalities present since birth, brain tissue scarring, cysts or infections.
Focal seizures are classified into simple partial seizures and complex partial seizures. You remain conscious during a simple partial seizure and might experience a shift in your emotional state and a change in how things look, smell, feel, taste or sound. Involuntary jerking, tingling and vertigo are also common. Complex partial seizures cause staring and random movements that serve no purpose, like twitching or walking in circles. They alter consciousness and you might not be fully aware of the episode.
Seeking Medical Attention
Seek medical care if your seizure lasts more than five minutes, a second one follows as soon as the first one ends, if you are pregnant or have diabetes, or if you have injured yourself during the episode.
If it is the first seizure you have ever experienced, seek medical attention regardless of circumstances.
The first line of treatment for focal symptomatic epilepsy is medication. Some people can remain seizure-free on just one drug while others experience a decrease in the frequency and intensity of their seizures. You might need to experiment with different medications and dosages before finding the regimen that works best for you. Typically, you start off with one medication at a time and usually move to a combination if two or more individual medicines have not been successful. If you are seizure-free for two years, you might be able to discontinue medication.
All medications for epilepsy have similar side effects. You might experience mild side effects including fatigue, dizziness, weight gain, rashes, loss of coordination and speech problems. Rarely, you might experience more severe side effects like depression, thoughts of suicide, severe rash and inflamed organs.
If medications are not working for you, surgery is an option. In most cases, focal symptomatic epilepsy originates from one well-defined area of the brain and surgery to remove the damaged tissue is usually successful. Depending on your individual circumstances, you might need to remain on medication but it is usually at a reduced amount.
This type of surgery is not an option however, if the part of the brain that needs to be removed is involved in important functions like seeing, hearing or speaking. In this case, your doctor can perform other procedures that will help reduce seizures in conjunction with your medication.
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