Get the facts about partial-onset seizures
While tonic-clonic seizures (also known as grand mal) are the most recognized, more than half of people with epilepsy have partial-onset seizures.
Partial-onset seizures are different from generalized seizures because they start in only one side of the brain. They come in many forms and can be harder to spot. Some people experiencing partial-onset seizures may not even recognize that they're having seizures.
Complex partial seizures impair consciousness or can cause some people to lose consciousness entirely. People experiencing one may appear "spaced out" for a moment, or have repetitive behavior such as picking at their clothes or smacking their lips.
Simple partial seizures can be even more subtle. While the person cannot control the seizure itself, he or she remains aware that something is going on. For example, simple partial seizures might cause an involuntary movement of the leg, an occasional sense of déjà vu, or the perception of an odor that isn’t really there.
“My first seizure started with the feeling of déjà vu. I didn’t realize it was a seizure, but it was. It was a simple partial seizure. That was the beginning of my realization that I had epilepsy.”
— Mark A., currently taking VIMPAT for partial-onset seizures
Partial-onset seizures can sometimes generalize and spread across the entire brain, often resulting in a convulsive seizure.
This type of seizure is called a secondarily generalized partial-onset seizure.
If you or a loved one has succeeded in controlling generalized seizures, you might think living with a few partial seizures is “good enough.” But you may be able to reduce the number of partial-onset seizures you are having, too.
“Your doctors are there to help you. But you have to take that first step. You have to be the one to say, ‘I want more.’”
— Rick S., currently taking VIMPAT for partial-onset seizures
As a caregiver, your observations can provide your loved one’s neurologist with an important perspective. Use this checklist to remind you what you should be looking for and the patterns you should be noting. Consider writing down what you observe in a journal and sharing the journal with your loved one’s healthcare team.
Looking for more topics to discuss with the doctor? Together with your loved one, use our Neurologist Discussion Guide to create a customized list of questions to print and bring to the doctor.