What’s the connection between strokes and seizures?
If you’ve had a stroke, you have an increased risk for having a seizure. A stroke causes your brain to become injured. The injury to your brain results in the formation of scar tissue, which affects the electrical activity in your brain. Disrupting the electrical activity can cause you to have a seizure.
There are three different types of strokes, and they include hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes. Hemorrhagic strokes occur as a result of bleeding within or around the brain. Ischemic strokes occur as a result of a blood clot or a lack of blood flow to the brain.
People who’ve had a hemorrhagic stroke are more likely to have seizures after a stroke than those who’ve had an ischemic stroke. You’re also at increased risk of seizures if the stroke is severe or occurs within the cerebral cortex of your brain.
Your risk of post-stroke seizure is highest in the first 30 days following a stroke. Approximately 5 percent of people will have a seizure within a few weeks after having a stroke, according to the National Stroke Association. You’re more likely to have an acute seizure within 24 hours of a severe stroke, a hemorrhagic stroke, or a stroke that involves the cerebral cortex.
A 2018 study found that 9.3 percent of all people with stroke experienced a seizure.
Occasionally, a person who’s had a stroke may have chronic and recurring seizures. They may be diagnosed with epilepsy.
More than 40 different types of seizures exist. Your symptoms will differ depending on the type of seizure you have.
The most common type of seizure, and the most dramatic in appearance, is a generalized seizure. The symptoms of a generalized seizure include:
Other possible symptoms of seizure include:
If you have a seizure, notify your doctor immediately. They’ll want to know the circumstances that surrounded your seizure. If someone was with you at the time of the seizure, ask them to describe what they witnessed so you can share that information with your doctor.
If you see someone having a seizure, do the following:
- Place or roll the person having the seizure on their side. This will help prevent choking and vomiting.
- Place something soft underneath their head to prevent further injury to their brain.
- Loosen any clothing that appears to be tight around their neck.
- Don’t restrict their movement unless they’re at risk of hurting themselves.
- Don’t put anything in their mouth.
- Remove any sharp or solid items that they may come into contact with during the seizure.
- Pay attention to how long the seizure lasts and any symptoms that occur. This information will help emergency personnel provide the proper treatment.
- Don’t leave the person having the seizure until the seizure is over.
If someone experiences a long seizure and doesn’t regain consciousness, this is a life-threatening emergency. Seek immediate medical help.
If you’ve experienced a seizure following a stroke, you’re at an increased risk of developing epilepsy.
If it’s been 30 days since you had a stroke and you haven’t had a seizure, your chance for developing an epilepsy disorder is low.
If you’re still experiencing seizures more than a month after stroke recovery, however, you’re at a higher risk for epilepsy. Epilepsy is a disorder of the neurological system. People with epilepsy have recurrent seizures that aren’t associated with any specific cause.
You may have restrictions placed on your driver’s license if you continue to have seizures. This is because having a seizure while driving isn’t safe.
A combination of lifestyle changes and traditional antiseizure treatments may help prevent a post-stroke seizure.
Here are a few things you can do to reduce your risk for seizure:
- Stay hydrated.
- Avoid overexerting yourself.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat foods that are high in nutrients.
- Avoid alcohol if you’re taking prescription seizure medications.
- Avoid smoking.
If you’re at risk for having a seizure, the following tips can help keep you safe if you do have a seizure:
- Ask a friend or family member to be present if you’re swimming or cooking. If possible, ask them to drive you where you need to go until your risk has decreased.
- Educate your friends and family about seizures so that they can help keep you safe if you have a seizure.
- Talk to your doctor about things you can do to reduce your risk for seizure.
Your doctor may prescribe antiseizure medications if you’ve had a seizure post-stroke. Follow their instructions and take all medications as prescribed.
There isn’t a lot of research on how well antiseizure medications work on those who’ve experienced a stroke, however. In fact, the European Stroke Organisation mostly advises against their use in this case.
Your doctor may also recommend a vagus nerve stimulator (VNS). This is sometimes referred to as a pacemaker for your brain. A VNS is operated by a battery that your doctor surgically attaches to the vagus nerve in your neck. It sends out impulses to stimulate your nerves and reduce your risk for seizure.