An unusual sensation, known as an aura, may precede a temporal lobe seizure, acting as a warning. Not everyone who has temporal lobe seizures experiences auras, and those who have auras may not remember them. The aura is actually a small seizure itself — one that has not spread into an observable seizure that impairs consciousness and ability to respond. Examples of auras include:

  • A sudden sense of unprovoked fear
  • A deja vu experience — a feeling that what's happening has happened before
  • The sudden occurrence of a strange odor or taste
  • A rising sensation in the abdomen

People who have temporal lobe seizures can remain partially conscious during a seizure, but they also may lose awareness of their surroundings and often don't remember what happened.

A temporal lobe seizure usually lasts 30 seconds to two minutes. Characteristic signs and symptoms of temporal lobe seizures include:

  • Loss of awareness of surroundings
  • Staring
  • Lip smacking
  • Repeated swallowing or chewing
  • Unusual finger movements, such as picking motions

After a temporal lobe seizure, you may have:

  • A brief period of confusion and difficulty speaking
  • Inability to recall the events that occurred during the seizure
  • Unawareness of having had a seizure until someone else tells you

In extreme cases, what starts as a temporal lobe seizure evolves into a grand mal (tonic-clonic) seizure — featuring convulsions and a loss of consciousness.

When to see a doctor

Seek medical advice in these circumstances:

  • If you think you're having seizures — early diagnosis is important
  • When the number or severity of seizures increases significantly without explanation
  • When new signs or symptoms of seizures appear

Seek emergency medical care if:

  • A seizure lasts more than five minutes
  • The person doesn't recover completely or as quickly as usual after the seizure is over
  • Rhythmic muscle contractions or jerky movements occur, which may indicate a grand mal seizure is developing

If it appears a grand mal seizure may be developing:

  • Call for medical help immediately.
  • Gently roll the person onto one side and put something soft under his or her head.
  • Loosen tight neckwear.
  • Don't put anything in the mouth — the tongue can't be swallowed, and objects placed in the mouth can be bitten or inhaled.
  • Don't try to restrain the person. Look for a medical alert bracelet, which may indicate an emergency contact person and other information.
Jun. 25, 2011