An epilepsy aura refers to a physiological warning that occurs before a person experiences a seizure. Auras are also known as focal aware seizures (FAS).

When a person has an aura, they may feel a sense of déjà vu or suddenly experience an unusual taste in their mouth. This is because seizures are a symptom of a change in brain activity, which can alter a person’s senses and sensations.

People refer to FAS as auras, as they sometimes occur before a more serious seizure.

Read on to learn more about epilepsy auras and their symptoms.

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An epilepsy aura is a type of focal seizure that affects one side of the brain or one small section of the brain. This is different from generalized seizures that affect both sides of the brain.

The previous term for FAS was “partial seizures” or, more specifically, “simple partial seizures.”

Anybody can experience FAS. However, the likelihood increases if a person has experienced the following:

The symptoms of auras or FAS present differently depending on their location in the brain.

  • Temporal lobe: This part of the brain is behind the ears. If an aura starts here, a person may experience sensory and emotional symptoms, such as a change in taste or a feeling of joy. It can also involve a sensation in the stomach, similar to the sense of the stomach dropping when on a roller coaster.
  • Frontal lobe: This part of the brain is behind the forehead. A person may experience more movement or speech symptoms when an aura begins.
  • Parietal lobe: This is the central part of the brain behind the frontal lobe. When an aura starts here, a person may experience hallucinations or visual disturbances. They may also experience unusual sensations, such as numbness, tingling, and burning.
  • Occipital lobe: This area of the brain is near the base of the skull and contains the primary visual cortex. During an aura, a person may see flashing lights or spots.

An epilepsy aura is the same as a focal aware seizure, or FAS.

Generally, people call a FAS an aura when it occurs before a more severe seizure, such as a generalized seizure or a more serious focal seizure.

FAS can include motor and nonmotor symptoms.

Motor symptoms

Motor symptoms affect movement and include:

  • picking and pulling at clothes
  • loss of muscle tone, or limbs going limp and floppy
  • jerking movements
  • loud cries or screams
  • kicking or cycling legs
  • positioning the body in an unusual posture

Nonmotor symptoms

Nonmotor symptoms include:

  • a rising feeling in the stomach
  • a sense of déjà vu, or a feeling a person has been somewhere before
  • strong feelings of joy or fear
  • a wave-like sensation passing through the head
  • stiffness or twitching in the arms or hands
  • a numb or tingling feeling
  • limbs suddenly appearing bigger than they are
  • visual disturbances
  • hallucinations

As auras are a type of seizure, the area of the brain where the seizure occurs may help indicate the potential trigger or cause.

Generally, doctors organize the causes of seizures into six categories:

  • Genetic: This includes developmental issues within the brain.
  • Brain structure: This may include brain injuries, trauma, and stroke.
  • Metabolic issues: Too little sugar or too much ammonia in the blood may trigger a seizure.
  • Immune conditions: Some autoimmune conditions can cause epileptic seizures.
  • Infections: Seizures are more common with infections that affect the central nervous system.
  • Unknown cause: Sometimes, doctors do not know why someone experiences a seizure. Environmental triggers such as flashing lights and sleep deprivation are responsible in some cases.

Medication withdrawal can also cause FAS in some people.

A doctor will take a complete medical history and conduct a physical examination to diagnose AS.

They will also use diagnostic tools such as:

The steps a person takes to prevent an aura are highly personal and depend on their triggers and overall health.

For example, if sleep deprivation is responsible for triggering a person’s seizures, they may find it helpful to focus on getting enough sleep.

Treatment for FAS or auras may involve:

Epilepsy resources

Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on epilepsy and seizures.

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Epilepsy auras are a type of focal seizure. The symptoms a person experiences depend on the location of the aura in the brain.

Generally, symptoms fall into two categories: motor, affecting movement, and nonmotor.

Examples of motor symptoms include picking or pulling at clothes. Nonmotor symptoms may consist of numbing or tingling sensations.

A person can help manage their auras with medication and by avoiding triggers.