Post-stroke seizures are most common in the first few days after a stroke but can occur at any time. Seizures usually mean that the stroke was more severe. Treatments are available to prevent future seizures.

If you’ve had a stroke, you have an increased risk of having a seizure.

A stroke causes injury to your brain. Damage to the white matter (inner layers) of your brain’s cerebral cortex can disrupt electrical activity in your brain. This can lead to a seizure.

Keep reading to learn more about the connection between strokes and seizures.

There are three different types of strokes:

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.

TIAs, also known as ministrokes, do not typically result in seizures, but symptoms of a TIA can often mimic a seizure.

A 2018 study found that 9.3% of all people with stroke experienced a seizure.

Your risk of post-stroke seizure is highest in the first few weeks following a stroke, but especially the first day. 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.

Occasionally, a person who’s had a stroke may have chronic and recurring seizures. If recurrent seizures occur, a doctor would diagnose them with epilepsy.

Several different types of seizures exist. Post-stroke seizures are focal, which means that they start in a specific region of the brain.

Seizures caused by a stroke begin in the area of the brain that was affected by the stroke. These seizures may generalize, which means that they can spread to both sides of the brain.

The symptoms of a generalized seizure include:

Other possible symptoms of seizure include:

If you have a seizure, notify a 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.

Treatment for post-stroke seizures aims to resolve current symptoms and prevent future seizures.

A doctor may consider antiseizure medications to help treat symptoms. However, there isn’t a lot of high quality research on how well antiseizure medications work on those who’ve experienced a stroke. In fact, the European Stroke Organisation advises against their use in this case after a first post-stroke seizure.

But if you experience a second seizure, your risk of even more seizures is higher. At this point, experts agree that doctors should start treatment with antiseizure medications.

Research from 2021 suggests that newer antiseizure medications, like lamotrigine and gabapentin, might more effectively protect against future seizures than older ones, like carbamazepine and phenobarbital.

According to a 2023 review, people with post-stroke seizures typically have worse outcomes than those who don’t. The data suggested that people with post-stroke seizures were:

  • more likely to have long-term disability
  • more than three times as likely to develop dementia
  • more than twice as likely to die

Mortality rates were higher for those who had early seizures than those who had late seizures.

People who have post-stroke seizures also tend to have longer hospital stays.

Post-stroke epilepsy

If you’ve experienced a seizure following a stroke, you’re also 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 of developing an epilepsy disorder is low.

However, if you’re still experiencing seizures more than a month after stroke recovery, you’re at a higher risk for epilepsy. Epilepsy is a disorder of the neurological system.

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.

If you’ve had a post-stroke seizure, here are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of having recurrent seizures:

If you’re at risk of 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 with a doctor about what you can do to reduce your risk of seizure.

About 1 in 10 people experience a seizure after a stroke. These can occur any time after a stroke but are most likely to occur within the first 24 hours. They’re also more likely after severe or hemorrhagic strokes.

Seizures generally occur with more severe strokes, and having a post-stroke seizure is often associated with a worse outcome after a stroke. People with post-seizure strokes tend to have longer hospital stays and a higher risk of disability, complications, and death.

A doctor may not start you on antiseizure medication after a post-seizure stroke, especially if your risk of a future seizure is low. If your risk of epilepsy is high, they can prescribe medications and recommend lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of future seizures.