What Is the Connection Between Strokes and Seizures?

A diagram of an ischemic stroke and a hemorrhagic stroke.
The human brain, including blood vessels that can be involved in a stroke.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 22 July 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Strokes and seizures, both involving abnormal activity in the brain, can appear independently and may also be connected, especially in older patients. In a stroke, a patient experiences brain damage caused by lack of oxygen in an ischemic stroke, or hemorrhage and trauma in a hemorrhagic stroke. Seizures are periods of increased electrical activity in the brain resulting in symptoms like twitching, slurred speech, and confusion. Seizures are sometimes the result of brain damage, and consequently, a stroke may be the source of a seizure disorder in some cases.

In older adults who develop seizures, a stroke is often the cause. Sometimes a stroke is not identified when it occurs, only later, after symptoms of brain damage start to develop. Seizures can onset as much as three months after a stroke. In other patients, a stroke is spotted at the time and treatment is provided, but seizures develop anyway. Strokes and seizures in older adults are a cause for concern, as stroke survival tends to decrease when a patient has a seizure during or shortly after a stroke.

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Most commonly, a hemorrhagic stroke causes seizures in the future. In patients with ischemic strokes, sometimes the oxygen deprivation results in seizure activity while the stroke damage is still happening. Patients who appear confused and disoriented and then seize may be experiencing a stroke followed by seizures, and should receive medical attention immediately. The link between strokes and seizures is known by many medical providers, and stroke patients are usually provided with aggressive supportive care to stop the damage to the brain and limit the chance of developing complications like seizures.

Seizures on their own can be associated with traumatic brain injuries, severe brain damage, and congenital conditions. In a person who experiences seizures, brain scans may be performed before, during, and after seizure activity to learn more about what is happening inside the brain. The seizures can sometimes be controlled with medication, avoidance of triggers, and other measures, protecting the patient's brain from seizure injuries. In patients who experience a younger onset of seizures, strokes and seizures may not be linked.

Strokes and seizures are generally not connected in the other direction, and a person with a history of seizures should not be at increased risk of stroke. Changes in seizure patterns may indicate the presence of damage to the brain or reactions to medications, but are not necessarily indicative of a stroke. Brain scans can be performed to look for tell-tale stroke damage if there is a concern, primarily a worry in older patients or patients with a family history of stroke.

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