What Is Temporal Lobe Epilepsy?

Kids with temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) 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 of the brain is involved in controlling emotions and short-term memory.

TLE begins in children around 10 years old to late adolescence, but can start at any age if there is a structural lesion in the temporal lobe.

What Happens in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy?

The seizures in TLE are focal seizures. Focal seizures begin in one specific location in the brain.

  • If someone stays aware during a TLE 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?

Someone having a focal onset aware seizure may have an aura. An aura is a special feeling 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 abdomen

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?

TLE can be caused by infections, brain injury, a tumor, genetic factors, or changes in brain structure.

Babies who have a febrile seizure (caused by a high fever) that lasts for 15 minutes or longer have a higher risk for developing TLE later on.

How Is Temporal Lobe Epilepsy Diagnosed?

TLE is diagnosed by a pediatric neurologist (a specialist in brain, spine, and nervous system problems). Testing may include:

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

How Is Temporal Lobe Epilepsy Treated?

Seizures in TLE usually get better with medicine. If medicines don't control the seizures, doctors may recommend neurostimulation (using a device to stimulate nerves to stop seizures) or surgery. The results from surgery are excellent, so neurologists prefer it over neurostimulation.

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 with TLE 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. So make sure that other adults and caregivers (family members, babysitters, teachers, coaches, etc.) know what to do.

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

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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