Experiencing seizures after stroke or watching someone experience a seizure can be a frightening experience.
This guide on the secondary effects of stroke includes information about post-stroke seizures that should be taken very seriously. Stroke survivors and caregivers should both 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 on Facebook (that you are welcome to join) speculate that it seems to happen to more than just 5% of people after a stroke.
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 their first seizure years after the stroke occurred, 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 characterized by recurrent seizures after a stroke occur that are not associated 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.
- Get them into a recovery position. Follow the steps from the Epilepsy Society to safely roll the person to their side and get them into a “recovery position.”
- Move nearby objects away. Since a person cannot control their body during a seizure, they are unaware of their environment and 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 a common myth 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 that 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!
Photos from top to bottom: iStock/LittleBee80/PIKSEL/Zinkevych