Doctors group seizures into three broad categories: focal, generalized, and unknown. Focal seizures are the most common type and were once known as partial seizures because they involve only half of your brain. The symptoms of a focal seizure can vary widely depending on which region is affected and are sometimes subtle enough to miss.
Andrew Lerman, MD, and our team at Gables Neurology in Miami, Florida, offer expert care for seizures. From diagnosis to ongoing treatment, Dr. Lerman uses his years of clinical experience and training to provide innovative therapies that help you overcome the challenges of living with a seizure disorder.
Read more from our Gables Neurology team regarding focal seizures, their symptoms, and ways to manage their effects.
What causes seizures?
A seizure results from atypical electrical activity in your brain that may affect your entire brain (generalized seizures) or part of your brain (focal seizures).
Dr. Lerman begins a seizure evaluation by discussing the symptoms you experienced or actions others may have observed during an episode. An unknown seizure occurs when the region affected isn’t identifiable, perhaps because no one witnessed the seizure, or you’re unaware of the symptoms you experienced.
Potential causes and seizure triggers include:
- Brain injury, including concussion
- Elevated temperature (febrile seizures)
- High or low blood sugar
- Brain infection (meningitis, encephalitis)
- Excessive alcohol or drug use
- Metabolic disorders
- Flashing lights
- Certain medications
- Electrolyte imbalances (low sodium, calcium, magnesium)
If you have one seizure, you’re at increased risk of having a second and may be diagnosed with a seizure disorder if you have two or more events.
What are the symptoms of focal seizures?
Symptoms of a focal seizure may include:
- Involuntary movements such as twitching, jerking, lip-smacking, or eye-blinking
- Muscle rigidity or contractions
- Seeing bright or flashing lights that aren’t present
- Visual distortions (i.e., objects appearing smaller or larger than they are)
- Unexpected sour, metallic, or bitter taste in your mouth
- Hearing unusual or nonexistent sounds
- Tingling or crawling sensations on your skin
- Excessive sweating
- Inability to communicate
- Extreme fear, anxiety, agitation
- Feeling as if you’re in a dream
These symptoms typically last for 1-2 minutes but can go on for 10 minutes or more. You may not be aware of some or all seizure symptoms and sometimes might not recall the experience afterward. In that case, Dr. Lerman may ask for bystander reports to help identify the length and type of seizure you experienced.
So, how do I live with focal seizures?
Dr. Lerman uses a multi-faceted approach to help you overcome the challenges of focal seizures. He starts with a comprehensive physical exam and neurological evaluation that may include blood tests, imaging scans, and other diagnostic studies to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of focal seizures.
Based on those results, your strategy may include the following:
- Medication to prevent seizures
- Nutritional therapy (high protein, low carb diet)
- Identifying and avoiding seizure triggers
- Vagal nerve stimulation to reduce seizure frequency
- Medical cannabis
- Education and support
You may also benefit from treatment for abnormal blood sugar levels, electrolyte imbalances, and other underlying causes of seizures. Solving these issues could be all you need to prevent future seizures.
Always seek medical care for a first-time seizure since it can indicate a serious neurological condition. Also, call Dr. Lerman’s office as soon as possible if you’ve been diagnosed with a seizure disorder and your seizure symptoms change or increase in frequency and duration.
Contact Gables Neurology today to schedule an evaluation for seizures or for other neurological services we provide.