Sensory Seizures

A seizure is unusual electrical activity in the brain. Sensory seizures can affect any of the five senses:

  • Touch
  • Taste
  • Hearing
  • Vision
  • Smell

A sensory seizure is a type of simple partial seizure.

Symptoms

Symptoms of sensory seizures include:

  • Smelling things that aren’t there
  • Tasting things that aren’t there
  • Hearing clicking, ringing, or a person’s voice that is not there
  • Feeling pins and needles
  • Numbness
  • Feeling as if floating for spinning
  • Seeing things that aren’t there


Causes and Risk Factors

The cause of seizures is often unknown.

Seizures can be linked to:

Diagnosis

Diagnosing the type of seizure is very important. The doctor will ask you questions about your seizures to determine the type and if they are caused by epilepsy.

A detailed medical history often has the best clues about seizures. It may help rule out other conditions that might have caused the seizures. Patients will also have a neurological exam. During the exam they will be asked to recall what happens just before, during and right after they experience seizure.

The most useful way to diagnose epilepsy is an electroencephalogram (EEG). This records electrical activity in the brain. The EEG can record unusual spikes or waves in electrical activity patterns. Different types of epilepsy can be identified with these patterns.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans may be used to look at the cause and the location within the brain. The scans can show scar tissue, tumors or structural problems in the brain.

Treatments

For many patients, correct treatment can lower or prevent seizures. In some cases, patients may not have any more seizures for the rest of their life.

Treatment is based on:

  • The type of seizure
  • How often seizures happen
  • How severe the seizures are
  • The patient's age
  • The patient's overall health
  • The patient's medical history

Anti-seizure (or anti-epileptic) medications can be very helpful. Finding the right medication and the right dosage sometimes takes a few tries. Your doctor will work with you to watch for side effects and find the best treatment.

Surgery may be an option if medication can't control the seizures. A vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) is sometimes implanted and used with anti-epileptic medication to lower seizures. The VNS is a tool placed under the skin of the chest. It sends electrical energy through the vagus nerve into the neck and up to the brain.

Certain lifestyle changes may also be used:

  • Special high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet (ketogenic diet)
  • Getting plenty of sleep
  • Avoiding certain triggers, such as flickering lights

The staff at the Cedars-Sinai Epilepsy Program will work with each patient to determine the best treatment option.