Experiencing seizures after stroke or watching someone experience a seizure can be a frightening experience.
This post-stroke side effect should be taken very seriously, and both stroke survivors and caregivers should be fully educated on how to handle a seizure if it happens.
In this article, you will learn why seizures occur after stroke and what to do if they happen.
It’s important for everyone to be knowledgeable about seizure management – so educate everyone that you can!
What Causes Seizures After Stroke?
Seizures happen when there is sudden disorganized electrical activity in the brain.
But why do seizures happen after a stroke?
Depending on where the stroke occurs, sometimes it damages the lining of the brain. The damage results in scar tissue which prevents the normal flow of electrical activity in the brain, causing a seizure.
Some sources say that about 5% of stroke survivors will experience seizures after stroke. However, members of our stroke support group (that you are more than welcome to join) agree that it seems to happen to more people than that.
Therefore, it is essential for all stroke survivors and caregivers to stay informed about seizures and what to do when they occur.
When Do Seizures After Stroke Occur?
Generally, a seizure is most likely to happen is within the first 24 hours after the onset of stroke. It is also common for seizures to occur within the first few weeks after stroke.
However, everyone is different and every stroke is different, so this can vary greatly from person to person.
Some of the stroke survivors in our support group have experienced them for the first time years after stroke, which is yet another reason why seizure education is so important.
Types of Seizures After Stroke
There are two main categories of post-stroke seizures: Provoked and Unprovoked seizures.
Provoked seizures usually occur immediately after a stroke but are caused by something else, such as a severe infection, high fever, or kidney failure.
Unprovoked seizures usually happen at least a week after a stroke but are not caused by anything external like an infection.
Multiple, unprovoked seizures are the main criteria for a post-stroke epilepsy diagnosis.
Do Seizures Lead to Post-Stroke Epilepsy?
Post-stroke epilepsy is a neurological disorder where recurrent seizures after a stroke occur that are unassociated with a specific cause.
Having a single seizure does not necessarily mean that you have post epilepsy.
However, if you have chronic, unprovoked, recurring seizures, then you may be diagnosed with post-stroke epilepsy.
Since you should call 911 after chronic or repetitive seizures, your doctor will be able to give you more information on this.
Can Post-Stroke Epilepsy Stroke Be Treated?
Yes, in fact, it can! There are several anti-seizure medications available that can help reduce seizure frequency and severity and get your post-stroke epilepsy under control.
There is also a device called a vagus nerve stimulator that can stimulate your nerves with electrical impulses to prevent seizures.
Whichever treatment you choose, it’s always good idea to set up a Seizure Response Plan with your family and friends.
Having a thorough response plan will help you manage your post-stroke epilepsy effectively. Then you can finally start living your life again without the fear of seizures holding you back.
What Should You Do When Someone Is Having a Seizure?
Knowing how to properly help someone who is having a seizure is critical for their health and safety.
If you are a stroke survivor, be sure to share this information with your friends and family so that they know how to properly help you if you have a seizure.
- Get them to the ground safely. If the person is on a bed or chair, move them to the floor gently. This will prevent them from falling and acquiring a serious injury.
- DO NOT hold the person down.When someone is having a seizure, stopping their movement will not stop the seizure. The seizure is happening in their brain, not their body. Holding them still will only hurt them and possibly yourself as well.
- Roll them onto their side. This will help prevent possible
- Move nearby objects away.Since a person experiencing a seizure cannot control their bodily movement, it means that they cannot avoid sharp objects around them. Keep them safe by moving anything dangerous away.
- DO NOT put anything in the person’s mouth.There is an unfortunately common misconception that someone can swallow their tongue while having a seizure, and that’s simply not true. Instead, putting something in their mouth can potentially cause serious damage to their mouth since they cannot control their jaw. It’s also a choking hazard.
- Time the seizure. If a seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, call 911 immediately.
- Offer reassurance. After a seizure ends, the person is going to be confused and anxious, and possibly embarrassed. Comfort them and let them know everything will be ok.
When to Call 9-1-1
According to epilepsy.com, you should call 911 for help if the person…
- …has a seizure lasts for longer than 5 minutes
- …experiences multiple seizures back-to-back
- …appears to be choking or has trouble breathing
- …is injured during the seizure
- …asks for medical help
- …is having a seizure for the first time
If you know other stroke survivors or caregivers, be sure to spread the word on how to manage seizures after stroke!