Complex Partial Epilepsy

Epilepsy Information 2012

Complex Partial Epilepsy

Complex partial epilepsy is a type of epilepsy that is characterized by complex partial seizures. Complex partial seizures are one of two types of partial seizures. The other type is simple partial seizures. Complex partial seizures and simple partial seizures are both focal seizures. This means they originate from a particular area in the brain. The difference between the two types of focal seizures is that during a seizure, the patient will lose consciousness during a complex partial seizure while a patient will usually remain conscious during a simple partial seizure.

Therefore, a person who suffers from complex partial epilepsy will experience impairment of consciousness and may even lose consciousness during a seizure episode. The impairment of consciousness results in an individual being non-responsive to external stimuli and his surrounding, as well as decreased awareness of oneself. Due to impairment of consciousness, the individual may not remember any of the symptoms or events preceding the loss of consciousness.

One of the most common symptoms experienced before a complex partial seizure is what is referred to as a seizure aura. This refers to the different feelings a person may experience just before losing consciousness such as the feeling of fear, euphoria, jamais vu, déjà vu and depersonalization. The seizure aura also includes vision distortion such as micropsia (objects seem smaller than they are), macropsia (objects seem larger than they are) or tunnel vision.

A seizure aura is not only experienced in complex partial epilepsy but is also experienced in simple partial epilepsy.

Other symptoms that may be experienced in complex partial epilepsy during the time when consciousness is impaired include lip smacking, chewing, swallowing, abnormal mouth movements, picking at clothing and other odd actions. These actions are referred to as automatisms. Some people may laugh, scream, cry, repeat words or talk about things that do not make sense. As consciousness may not be completely impaired, a person may be able to perform simple motor activities such as walking and respond to simple commands.

Complex partial epilepsy is most often temporal lobe epilepsy even though complex partial seizures can originate from any of the lobes. The origin of the complex seizure can be determined as the seizures have different behaviours. For instance, a temporal lobe seizure may begin with a fixed, blank stare while a frontal lobe seizure will start with vigorous automatisms. However, in spite of the origin of the seizure, a complex partial seizure may turn into a secondary generalized tonic clonic seizure when the abnormal activity spreads to other parts of the brain.

A complex partial seizure will last anything from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Temporal lobe seizures will typically last longer than extra temporal lobe seizures.

Anybody can suffer from complex partial epilepsy and quite often the cause of the seizures is not known. However, people who have had brain trauma, tumor, and infection or have suffered a stroke are at a higher risk of complex partial epilepsy.