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A Caregiver’s Guide to Post-stroke Seizures

Posted by Teresa Bitler Aug 26 2015

Roughly one in 10 people will have a seizure within five years of surviving a stroke. Although most seizures have no long-term effects, they can be scary for both survivor and caregiver. If you are caring for a stroke survivor, here’s what you need to know.

What is a Seizure?

A seizure is the result of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Depending on the severity, a seizure may go unnoticed or may result in convulsions, loss of consciousness, and other dramatic symptoms. Seizures are common after a stroke but rarely develop into epilepsy.

It’s difficult to predict which survivors will have a post-stroke seizure, but typically, someone who has had a hemorrhagic stroke is at greater risk than someone who has had an ischemic stroke. Other factors include the severity of the stroke and whether the stroke involved the cerebral cortex.

How Can You Tell Someone is having a Seizure?

Seizures have a beginning, middle, and end. While some people notice a change in how they feel or their senses hours or days before a seizure, some may not have any warning until immediately before when they report an indescribable feeling, ringing sound, headache, or other symptoms.

During a seizure, your loved one may lose consciousness, convulse, drool, repeatedly blink their eyes, or have difficulty breathing. After a seizure, they may be confused, slow to respond, and exhausted. For a complete list of signs and symptoms, click here.

What Should You Do?

Take these steps if your loved one is having a seizure:

  • Roll him on his side to prevent choking
  • Cushion his head
  • Loosen tight clothing around the neck
  • Keep the airway open
  • Do not put anything in his mouth, including medicine
  • Do not restrict him from moving
  • Remove any sharp or solid objects he might hit
  • Note seizure duration and symptoms
  • Stay with him until the seizure ends

After the seizure, call 911 if this is the first time he has had a seizure, if it lasts more than five minutes, or if another seizures immediately follows.

Can Post-stroke Seizures be Prevented?

If your loved one has not had a seizure, he can reduce any risk by controlling his weight and blood pressure, increasing physical activity, and eating healthy foods.

After the first seizure, your doctor may want to wait to see if he has any more seizures before taking action. If necessary, anti-seizure medicines can usually fully control stroke-related epilepsy.

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