Epilepsy Seizure Types and Symptoms
Partial seizures are divided into simple, complex and those that evolve into secondary generalized seizures. The difference between simple and complex seizures is that during simple partial seizures, patients retain awareness; during complex partial seizures, they lose awareness.
Simple partial seizures are further subdivided into four categories according to the nature of their symptoms: motor, autonomic, sensory, or psychological. Motor symptoms include movements such as jerking and stiffening. Sensory symptoms caused by seizures involve unusual sensations affecting any of the five senses (vision, hearing, smell, taste, or touch). When simple partial seizures cause sensory symptoms only (and not motor symptoms), they are called "auras."
Autonomic symptoms affect the autonomic nervous system, which is the group of nerves that control the functions of our organs, like the heart, stomach, bladder, intestines. Therefore autonomic symptoms are things like racing heart beat, stomach upset, diarrhea, loss of bladder control. The only common autonomic symptom is a peculiar sensation in the stomach that is experienced by some patients with a type of epilepsy called temporal lobe epilepsy. Simple partial seizures with psychological symptoms are characterized by various experiences involving memory (the sensation of deja-vu), emotions (such as fear or pleasure), or other complex psychological phenomena.
Complex partial seizures, by definition, include impairment of awareness. Patients seem to be "out of touch," "out of it," or "staring into space" during these seizures. There may also be some "complex" symptoms called automatisms. Automatisms consist of involuntary but coordinated movements that tend to be purposeless and repetitive. Common automatisms include lip smacking, chewing, fidgeting, and walking.
The third kind of partial seizure is one that begins as a focal seizure and evolves into a generalized convulsive ("grand-mal") seizure. Most patients with partial seizures have simple partial, complex partial, and secondarily generalized seizures. In about two-thirds of patients with partial epilepsy, seizures can be controlled with medications. Partial seizures that cannot be treated with drugs can often be treated surgically.