Frontal lobe seizures are a common form of epilepsy, a neurological disorder in which clusters of brain cells send abnormal signals and cause seizures. These types of seizures stem from the front of the brain.
Abnormal brain tissue, infection, injury, stroke, tumors or other conditions can also cause frontal lobe seizures.
Because the frontal lobe is large and has important functions, frontal lobe seizures can produce unusual symptoms that can appear to be related to psychiatric problems or a sleep disorder. They often occur during sleep.
Medications usually can control frontal lobe seizures, but surgery or an electrical stimulation device might be options if anti-epileptic drugs aren't effective.
Each side of your brain contains four lobes. The frontal lobe is important for cognitive functions and control of voluntary movement or activity. The parietal lobe processes information about temperature, taste, touch and movement, while the occipital lobe is primarily responsible for vision. The temporal lobe processes memories, integrating them with sensations of taste, sound, sight and touch.
Frontal lobe seizures often last less than 30 seconds. In some cases, recovery is immediate.
Signs and symptoms of frontal lobe seizures might include:
See your doctor if you're having signs or symptoms of a seizure. Call 911 or call for emergency medical help if you see someone having a seizure that lasts longer than five minutes.
Frontal lobe seizures, or frontal lobe epilepsy, can be caused by abnormalities — such as tumors, stroke, infection or traumatic injuries — in the brain's frontal lobes.
Frontal lobe seizures are also associated with a rare inherited disorder called autosomal dominant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy. If one of your parents has this form of epilepsy, you have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the abnormal gene that causes this disorder and developing the disease yourself.
For about half the people who have frontal lobe epilepsy, the cause remains unknown.
Frontal lobe epilepsy can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms can be mistaken for psychiatric problems or sleep disorders, such as night terrors. It's also possible that some seizure effects found in the frontal lobe might be the result of seizures that begin in other parts of the brain.
Your doctor will review your symptoms and medical history and give you a physical exam. You might also have a neurological exam, which will assess:
Your doctor might suggest the following tests.
Brain scans. Brain imaging, usually MRI, might reveal the source of frontal lobe seizures. An MRI scan uses radio waves and a powerful magnetic field to produce detailed images of soft tissues, which make up the brain.
An MRI scan involves lying on a narrow pallet that slides into a long tube. The test often takes about an hour. Some people feel claustrophobic inside MRI machines, although the test itself is painless.
Over the past decade, treatment options have increased for frontal lobe seizures. There are newer types of anti-seizure medications as well as a variety of surgical procedures that might help if medications don't work.
All anti-seizure drugs seem to work equally well at controlling frontal lobe seizures, but not everyone becomes seizure-free on medication. Your doctor might try different types of anti-seizure drugs or have you take a combination of drugs to control your seizures. Researchers are continuing to look for new and more-effective medications.
If your seizures can't be controlled with medications, surgery might be an option. Surgery involves pinpointing the areas of the brain where seizures occur.
Two newer imaging techniques — single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) and subtraction ictal SPECT coregistered to MRI (SISCOM) — can help identify the area generating seizures.
Another imaging technique, known as brain mapping, is commonly used before epilepsy surgery. Brain mapping involves implanting electrodes into an area of the brain and using electrical stimulation to determine whether that area has an important function, which would rule out surgery on that area. In addition, functional MRI (fMRI) is used to map the language area of the brain.
If you have surgery for your frontal lobe seizures, you're likely to continue to need anti-seizure medication after the surgery, although possibly at a lower dose.
Surgery for epilepsy might involve:
In vagus nerve stimulation, an implanted pulse generator and lead wire stimulate the vagus nerve, which leads to stabilization of abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
Deep brain stimulation involves implanting an electrode deep within your brain. The amount of stimulation delivered by the electrode is controlled by a pacemaker-like device placed under the skin in your chest. A wire that travels under your skin connects the device to the electrode.
Some seizures might be triggered by alcohol intake, smoking and, especially, lack of sleep. There is also evidence that severe stress can provoke seizures, and that seizures themselves can cause stress. Avoiding these triggers where possible might help improve seizure control.
Some people with common neurological conditions, including seizures, turn to complementary and alternative medicine, such as:
Researchers are looking into these therapies, hoping to determine their safety and effectiveness, but good evidence is mostly still lacking. There is some evidence that a strict high-fat, low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diet might be effective, particularly for children.
Many people with epilepsy use herbal remedies. However, there's little evidence for their effectiveness, and some can cause an increased risk of seizures.
Marijuana (cannabis) is one of the most commonly used herbal remedies for treating epilepsy, but most evidence doesn't show that it helps. However, little data are available and research into its usefulness is ongoing. Let your doctor know if you use cannabis.
The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate herbal products, and they can interact with other anti-epileptic drugs you take, putting your health at risk. Talk to your doctor before taking herbal or dietary supplements for your seizures.
Some people who have epilepsy are embarrassed or frustrated by their condition. Frontal lobe seizures can be especially embarrassing if they involve loud utterances or sexual movements.
Parents of children with frontal lobe seizures can find information, resources and emotional connections from support groups to help their children and themselves. Counseling can be helpful as well. Adults with epilepsy also can find support through in-person and online groups.
You'll probably first see your family doctor, who might refer you to a neurologist.
Ask a family member or friend to come with you to the doctor to help you remember the information you receive.
Make a list of:
Some questions to ask include:
Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, such as: