What is temporal lobe epilepsy?

  • October 22, 2020
  • 4
In this article
A woman with temporal lobe epilepsy looking into the distance

Temporal lobe epilepsy is the most common cause of focal seizures and it affects tens of thousands of people around the world. So, what is temporal lobe epilepsy and how is it treated? 

What is temporal lobe epilepsy?

Temporal lobe epilepsy is a type of focal epilepsy (where seizures start in one specific area of the brain). The seizures begin in the temporal lobes, which are sections of the brain behind your ears. Your temporal lobes process the things you hear and help build memories. 

Temporal lobe epilepsy can begin at any time in life, although it most often starts between the ages of 10 and 20. 

Temporal lobe seizure symptoms

Temporal lobe epilepsy can cause different kinds of seizures:

  • Auras (focal aware seizures): These are usually different sensations which can often be a warning that a bigger seizure is about to happen. They can last from a few seconds to a couple of minutes. 
  • Focal impaired seizures: These are seizures where you lose awareness of what is happening. You may stare blankly, move in unusual ways or make strange noises. They normally last one or two minutes. 
  • Tonic-clonic seizures: Sometimes a focal impaired seizure can progress to a tonic-clonic seizure, where you fall to the ground then shake. These usually last a couple of minutes, but are a medical emergency if they last longer than five minutes

What causes temporal lobe epilepsy?

Oftentimes, doctors do not know exactly why someone begins having temporal lobe seizures. However, there are some common causes:

  • Brain injuries from accidents
  • Diseases and infections when you were a child
  • Febrile seizures - if you had high temperatures caused by a fever that put you into a seizure when you were a baby
  • Brain malformations or growths on the brain

Real life story: Learn how Joseph from Los Angeles, CA, manages his auras and seizures

Temporal lobe epilepsy diagnosis and treatment

If you have started having seizures, your doctor will:

  • Ask for a detailed description of your seizures (if a friend or family member has a video recording of you, this can be very helpful)
  • Use an EEG machine to see if there is any unusual electrical activity in your brain
  • Use an MRI machine to see if there is a specific cause (such as a tumor)

If your doctor diagnoses you with temporal lobe epilepsy, they might treat it by:

  • Trialling you on anti-epilepsy medication. These work for about two in three people with temporal lobe seizures 
  • Put you forward for surgery - if they can identify a specific cause, such as a growth somewhere in your temporal lobes
  • Use a medical device which can help control the seizures

Learn more: Do you know about drug-resistant epilepsy?

A plan for temporal lobe epilepsy

For many people, temporal lobe seizures can be brought under control with the right treatment. By recording all your seizures in Epsy and frequently speaking with your doctor, you can create a plan to manage your epilepsy and work towards a seizure-free life. 

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