Understanding partial-onset seizures

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Knowing is helping. If you care for someone who is living with epilepsy, you want to know what you’re dealing with (and what their doctor is talking about). These articles can help.

POS101: Know the Basics of Partial-Onset Seizures

New to partial-onset seizures? Here’s a brief overview on what they are and how they may relate to you as a caregiver. Read this article >

How Partial-Onset Seizures Feel to Me

During a partial-onset seizure, different people will sense or experience different things. What does it actually feel like for the person experiencing one? We asked some people about their partial-onset seizures. Here are their responses. Read this article >

A Caregiver's Guide

As a caregiver, you can play an active role in your loved one’s relationship with their neurologist. But how? Here are some important things to take note of. Read this article >

POS101: KNOW THE BASICS OF PARTIAL-ONSET SEIZURES

The basic definition, plus some links to learn more.

While tonic-clonic seizures (also known as grand mal) are the most recognized, about 60% of people with epilepsy have what are called 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.

That’s where you come in. As a caregiver, your perspective can be critical. What can you do? Start with knowledge. Learn more about partial-onset seizures from both the clinical angle and the patient perspective. Understand seizures from your loved one’s point of view. Then join your loved one in the doctor’s exam room and share your observations.

HOW PARTIAL-ONSET SEIZURES FEEL TO ME

Get a patient perspective on what it can feel like to experience a partial-onset seizure.

Although medical experts can explain what happens within the body during a partial-onset seizure, only someone who has experienced one is able to truly shed light on what it really feels like. To help create a better understanding of partial-onset seizures, several people with epilepsy share firsthand accounts.

What happens during a simple partial-onset seizure

Depending on where in the brain the electrical disturbance occurs, these seizures may cause:

  • Shaking in a specific part of the body
  • Unusual sights, sounds, tastes, or smells
  • Odd emotions, including sudden feelings of intense fear, pleasure, or déjà vu

What it really feels like

"My left hand goes numb and I can no longer control it. I've learned to be ambidextrous and I just switch hands and go on with what I was doing."

"I get an odd sensation that travels down one side of my face and arm and I can't grasp things properly. There's no movement, so people around me wouldn't know it was happening unless I dropped something."

What happens during a complex partial-onset seizure

The person who is experiencing this type of
partial-onset seizure may:

  • Space out and have slowed responses
  • Become unresponsive and make repetitive movements, such as lip smacking or hand rubbing
  • Afterward, feel confused

What it really feels like

"It starts with a feeling of intense fear and the smell and taste of something disgustingly sweet. I eventually lose focus and shut off. I only know it happened because of how I feel afterward—dead tired, really jumpy, and sometimes as if I'm going to cry."

"I have no warning signs at all. I have woken up in the morning and the next thing I know I'm getting dressed. I have no memory of taking a shower, even though the towels are wet."

A CAREGIVER’S GUIDE

This checklist can help you collect the right information for your loved one’s doctor.

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.

  • Is there a pattern to your loved one’s recent seizures? (Be sure to think of any changes in the number of seizures, their duration, or what the seizure looks like. Bring video if possible.)
  • What events or activities precede your loved one’s seizures? (Frequent triggers include lack of sleep, stress, hunger, thirst, strobe or fluorescent lighting, TV or computer use, alcohol, and fatigue.)
  • Are the current antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) providing partial-onset seizure control? Tell the doctor the number of seizures your loved one is still having and the types of seizures he or she is still having.
  • Is your loved one experiencing possible side effects of the current AEDs? Tell the doctor what they are.
  • Do you want to learn more about other add-on AED options?
  • Do you have any questions since your last visit?

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.

Indication

Vimpat® (lacosamide) is a prescription medicine that is used with other medicines to treat partial-onset seizures in people 17 years of age and older with epilepsy.

Important Safety Information

Vimpat may not be for everyone. Ask your healthcare provider if Vimpat is right for you.

Warnings and Precautions

Antiepileptic drugs, including Vimpat, may cause suicidal thoughts or actions in a very small number of people, about 1 in 500. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have new or worsening symptoms of depression, any unusual changes in mood or behavior, or suicidal thoughts, behavior, or thoughts about self harm that you have never had before or may be worse than before.

Do not stop taking VIMPAT without first talking to your healthcare provider. Stopping Vimpat suddenly can cause serious problems. Stopping seizure medicine suddenly in a patient who has epilepsy can cause seizures that will not stop.

Vimpat may also cause you to feel dizzy, have double vision, feel sleepy, or have problems with coordination and walking. You should not drive, operate machinery or do other dangerous activities until you know how Vimpat affects you.

Vimpat may cause you to have an irregular heartbeat or may cause you to feel faint. Call your healthcare provider if you have a fast, slow, or pounding heartbeat, shortness of breath, feel lightheaded, or if you fainted or feel like you are going to faint.

Vimpat is a federally controlled substance (C-V) because it can be abused or lead to drug dependence. Keep your Vimpat in a safe place to protect it from theft. Do not give it to anyone else, because it may harm them.

In rare cases, Vimpat may cause a serious allergic reaction that may affect your skin or other parts of your body such as your liver or blood cells. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have a skin rash or hives, fever or swollen glands that do not go away, shortness of breath, swelling of the legs, yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, or dark urine.

Before taking Vimpat, tell your healthcare provider if you have or have had depression, mood problems, or suicidal thoughts or behavior; have heart, kidney or liver problems; have abused prescription medicines, street drugs or alcohol in the past, are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

Vimpat® oral solution contains aspartame, a source of phenylalanine.

Common Adverse Reactions

In clinical trials, the most common side effects seen with Vimpat were dizziness, headache, nausea, and double vision.

Talk to your healthcare provider about other possible side effects with VIMPAT. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Please see additional patient information in the Patient Medication Guide. This information does not take the place of talking with your healthcare provider about your condition or your treatment.

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