Complex partial seizures occur in children and adults with certain forms of epilepsy. They are the most common type of seizure in adults.
- An aura may occur at the beginning of a seizure. It may consist of a strange smell, taste, sound, or visual disturbance, an unexplained feeling of fear or anxiety, or a sense that everything seems strangely familiar, like it has all happened before (déjà vu), or strangely unfamiliar (jamais vu).
- The seizure changes the person's level of consciousness. The person may appear awake but cannot respond to anything or anyone around him or her. The person usually stares into space.
- The seizure may include involuntary movements called automatisms, such as lip-smacking, chewing, hand wringing, picking, and swallowing.
- The seizure lasts 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
Most people who have complex partial seizures do not remember having them. After a seizure, the person will be confused or disoriented and may have a hard time speaking and swallowing for several minutes.
Complex partial seizures are often confused with absence seizures, a type of generalized seizure. Absence seizures, though, never begin with an aura and last only 5 to 15 seconds. Also, a person is fully alert after an absence seizure and may continue with whatever he or she was doing before the seizure as though nothing has happened.
Current as of: November 20, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics
Brian O'Brien, MD, FRCPC - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Steven C. Schachter, MD - Neurology