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Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

What Is Temporal Lobe Epilepsy?

Kids with temporal lobe epilepsy have seizures that start in one of the temporal lobes of the brain. The temporal lobes are on the sides of the brain, behind the temples. This area is involved in controlling emotions, memory, and language.

What Happens in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy?

The seizures in temporal lobe epilepsy are focal seizures. Focal seizures begin in one area of the brain, and may or may not spread to other areas of the brain.

  • If someone stays aware during a seizure, it is called a focal onset aware seizure (formerly called a simple partial seizure).
  • If someone loses awareness during the seizure, it is called a focal onset impaired awareness seizure (formerly called a complex partial seizure).

What Do Seizures Look Like in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy?

Some children may have auras, which are a type of focal onset aware seizure that can include:

  • déjà vu (a feeling of already having been in the present situation)
  • a smell, taste, sound, or vision
  • an emotion (such as fear)
  • nausea or a rising sensation in the belly

Someone having a focal onset impaired awareness seizure may stare, rub their hands, or smack their lips. It may be hard to speak or understand language during the seizure.

Sometimes a focal seizure can develop (or generalize) into a seizure that involves both sides of the brain. This is called a focal to bilateral tonic-clonic seizure. With this type of seizure, the whole body jerks with forceful movements.

What Causes Temporal Lobe Epilepsy?

Infections, brain injury, a tumor, genetic mutations, or changes in brain structure all can cause temporal lobe epilepsy. Babies who have a febrile seizure (caused by a high fever) that lasts for 15 minutes or longer have a higher risk for developing the condition later on.

How Is Temporal Lobe Epilepsy Diagnosed?

A pediatric neurologist (a doctor who treats brain, spine, and nervous system problems) will diagnose the condition by doing tests such as:

  • EEG to see brain waves/electrical activity in the brain
  • VEEG, or video electroencephalography (EEG with video recording)
  • MRI or PET/MRI scans to look inside the brain

How Is Temporal Lobe Epilepsy Treated?

Seizures usually get better with medicine. If medicines don't control the seizures, doctors may recommend surgery or neurostimulation (using a device that sends electrical stimulation to the brain to stop seizures). In many cases, epilepsy surgery can lead to very good results for patients with temporal lobe epilepsy.

How Can I Help My Child?

Kids with temporal lobe epilepsy can lead a normal life. To help your child:

  • Make sure your child takes medicines as prescribed.
  • Tell the doctor if you don't think a medicine is working or notice anything different.

Some kids have trouble with memory and mood. Get help from specialists and therapists early on to support academic, social, and emotional success.

It's important to keep your child safe during a seizure. Make sure that other adults and caregivers (family members, babysitters, teachers, coaches, etc.) know what to do if one happens.

Often, temporal lobe epilepsy is a lifelong condition. When it's time, help your child move to adult health care.

What Else Should I Know?

If your child has epilepsy, reassure them that they’re not alone. Your doctor and the care team can answer questions and offer support. They also might be able to recommend a local support group. Online organizations can help too, such as:

Reviewed by: Lily Tran, MD, Andrew I. Mower, MD
Date Reviewed: Feb 15, 2022

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