Controlling Post-Stroke Seizures

In the first few weeks after a stroke, some survivors have seizures — a sign of brain injury caused by sudden disorganized electrical activity.

Am I likely to have seizures after my stroke?

It’s difficult to predict which stroke survivors will have a seizure.

But we know:

  • Stroke is the most common cause of seizures in older people.
  • Acute onset seizures normally happen within 24 hours of the stroke.

You’re more likely to have a seizure if you’ve had a severe stroke, a stroke caused by bleeding in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke) or a stroke in part of the brain called the cerebral cortex.

Your risk of having a seizure lessens with time after your stroke.

Does having a seizure mean I will develop epilepsy?

Not necessarily. Epilepsy, a neurological disorder in which recurrent seizures occur with no apparent causes, is more likely if you have chronic seizures and more than one per month. If you’ve recovered and haven’t had a seizure, you’re at very low risk of developing epilepsy.

Types of seizures Among the different types of seizures:

  • Generalized seizures are the most common and dramatic, caused by electrical pulses on both sides of the brain.
  • Partial seizures or focal seizures occur in only one part of the brain. These are common in people with epilepsy. More severe seizures involve shaking and losing consciousness. A condition in which a person has an abnormally long seizure or doesn’t regain consciousness between seizures is called status epilepticus. This is life-threatening, and an ambulance should be called. Longer than 5 minutes is too long for a seizure to last.

Seizures may indicate that someone has had a stroke when warning signs aren’t clearly present, especially in children and infants.

Can seizures/epilepsy be treated?

Stroke-related epilepsy can often be fully controlled with anti-seizure medicines.

Consult with a health care professional to find the best treatment for you. Tips for living with seizures and epilepsy Staying active can help you control seizures with these safety precautions:

  • Avoid dehydration.
  • Avoid overexertion.
  • Control your hypoglycemia.
  • Some activities such as cooking, driving or swimming may require supervision.

Consult with a health care professional for tips that meet your needs.

It’s important to let family, friends, caregivers and co-workers know about your seizures or epilepsy.

The National Institutes of Health has established guidelines for what to do if someone is having a seizure:

  • Roll the person on his or her side to prevent choking or vomiting.
  • Cushion the person’s head.
  • Loosen any tight clothing around the neck.
  • Don’t restrict the person from moving unless they’re in danger.
  • Make sure the person is breathing. If they’re in danger, open the airway by gripping the jaw gently and tilting the head back.
  • Don’t put anything in the person’s mouth, not even medicine or liquid.
  • Remove sharp or solid objects that the person might hit during the seizure.
  • Note how long the seizure lasts and what symptoms occurred to inform emergency personnel.
  • Stay with the person until the seizure ends.

Life After Stroke: Our Path Forward

There is life — and hope — after stroke. With time, new routines will become second nature. Rehabilitation can build your strength, capability and confidence. It can help you continue your daily activities despite the effects of your stroke.

Our Life After Stroke Guide is available in English and Spanish.

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