Jacksonian seizures – your introduction

  • March 13, 2024
  • 4
In this article
A man experiencing a Jacksonian seizure while looking out of the window

Have you ever had a Jacksonian seizure? This is a type of seizure that begins with twitching or a tingling sensation in one part of your body, which then spreads to nearby muscles. Because of how the seizure spreads, it is sometimes known as a ‘Jacksonian march’.

If you have Jacksonian seizures - or you suspect you might be having them - it's useful to learn a little more about these seizures. Here's what you need to know about Jacksonian seizures.

What is a Jacksonian seizure?

A Jacksonian seizure is a kind of focal onset aware seizure. This means that the seizure  only affects one small part of the brain and doesn't (usually) spread to the rest of the brain. People who have Jacksonian seizures remain conscious throughout the event.

Jacksonian seizures are named after the English neurologist (brain scientist) John Hughlings Jackson, who first described them in 1870.

Jacksonian seizures are usually fairly brief and mild, and some people don't even notice they're having them. But for other people they are more noticeable and uncomfortable. Jacksonian seizures are episodic, which means that sometimes you may have more of them, while other times you may have fewer or no seizures.

Focal seizures: Everything you need to know

Jacksonian seizure symptoms

If you have Jacksonian seizures, they will only affect one side of your body. The tingling or twitching symptoms normally begin in one specific place, before spreading to other muscles nearby. They often begin in people’s fingertips, a toe or at the corner of the mouth (they can also start in other parts of the body).

Other symptoms of a Jacksonian seizure include:

  • Licking lips
  • Eye movements and twitching
  • Muscle cramps
  • Repetitive hand movements
  • Numbness
  • Hallucinations

What causes Jacksonian seizures?

Jacksonian seizures may be caused by a number of different things, including:

  • A lack of oxygen in the brain
  • Brain injuries
  • Lesions or malformations on the brain's frontal lobe
  • Brain tumors

Jacksonian seizure diagnosis

If you believe you may be having Jacksonian seizures, then it is really important to visit a doctor to talk about your symptoms. To diagnose Jacksonian seizures, your physician may:

  • Take a detailed medical history where they ask you all about your symptoms and general health. If you have any videos of the seizures, this can be really helpful. You can record videos of your seizures in the Epsy App.
  • Send you for an EEG - electrical activity in your brain is monitored using sensors that are attached to your scalp - and this can help diagnose Jacksonian seizures. 
  • Your doctor may also send you for an MRI scan or a CT scan, which create images of your brain and can help identify any lesions or tumors. 

Treatment for Jacksonian seizures

The treatment for your seizures will depend on their severity and the underlying causes.

  • For some people, Jacksonian seizures are very mild, so your doctor may simply choose to watch and wait, and not give you any treatment unless the seizures get worse.
  • For other people, your doctor may decide that treatment with anti seizure medication is the best approach. Medication can help control seizures. 
  • If your seizures are caused by a lesion or tumor on your brain, your doctor may decide that the best approach would be brain surgery. Sometimes, the lesion or tumor that causes the seizures can be removed. 

Epilepsy treatment: Main options for treating epilepsy

Are Jacksonian seizures dangerous?

In and of themselves, Jacksonian seizures are not necessarily dangerous. You will remain conscious of your surroundings and the seizures are usually fairly short and mild. 

You shouldn't ignore Jacksonian seizures if you have them. People who have Jacksonian seizures may develop other kinds of epileptic seizures, including generalized seizures which can be more severe. Having a Jacksonian seizure could also be a sign of a more serious underlying condition, such as a brain tumor.

By seeking medical attention to find out the underlying causes of your Jacksonian seizures, you'll have a better understanding of what is causing them - and can develop a plan going forward.

Share article

Get the #1 epilepsy app now

Read next