Not all seizures look the same — there are many possible symptoms beyond convulsions. Some seizures have stroke-like symptoms, such as tingling and confusion. Most seizures...... is transient and its aftereffects are generally temporary, whereas the effects of a stroke are long-lasting or permanent.
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According to the National Library of Medicine, seizures fall into two main categories: focal seizures and generalized seizures. Focal seizures occur in one side of the brain, whereas generalized seizures originate in both sides of the brain. There are multiple types of seizures in each of the two categories, and each has potentially different symptoms, depending on which areas of the brain are affected when the seizure occurs.
Several types of seizure can mimic a stroke, explains Steven Rider, MD, a neurologist at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. "Most commonly, seizures demonstrate loss of function seen with stroke after the seizure is over," he says. "Sometimes some types of seizures that only involve a limited portion of cerebral cortex or brain tissue can mimic stroke by causing change in behavior, like the ability to speak or utilize language."
Here are some stroke-like symptoms associated with certain types of seizures.
Read more: Early Warning Signs of a Seizure
During what's called a Jacksonian march seizure, "tonic" (slow and sustained) contractions begin on one side of the body, usually the hand, face or foot, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). These contractions are followed by "clonic" (rapid and rhythmic) movements that spread from one body part on one side of the body to a larger area of the body.
This type of seizure is typically mild and does not usually cause a loss of consciousness. It's often mistaken for a transient ischemic attack, a type of stroke that lasts only a few minutes, according to the NLM.
It's possible to experience some level of speech impairment, similar to what's seen with stroke, when the seizure affects these regions of the brain:
"Language, the ability to speak or vocalize or understand questions, can be affected to variable degrees and be related to active seizure itself, post-seizure deficits and general clouding of thinking after having had a seizure," explains Dr. Rider. Speech problems that occur as the result of a seizure typically resolve quickly — within minutes to hours, he adds.
A period of temporary paralysis after a seizure is called Todd's paralysis. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), this paralysis typically occurs on just one side of the body, and it may be partial or full. This phenomenon may also affect speech and vision. It's not permanent, but it can last from 30 minutes to 36 hours, with 15 hours being the average recovery time.
There is no treatment that will resolve this seizure side effect any sooner, notes NINDS Resting as comfortably as possible until it has passed is the recommendation.
When you lose consciousness or your level of awareness changes during a seizure, there is the chance that the memory of the moments immediately before and after the seizure will be cloudy or lost, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. Two specific types of seizures that may result in memory loss are focal onset impaired awareness seizures and tonic-clonic seizures.
A focal onset impaired awareness seizure begins on one side of the brain, the foundation explains. Typically you'll feel tired or confused for a matter of minutes. A focal tonic-clonic seizure also originates and stays in one side of the brain, the foundation adds, while a bilateral tonic-clonic seizure may begin in one or both sides of the brain but ultimately affects both sides. Afterward, you may feel sleepy or confused, irritable or even depressed.
Read more: What Foods to Avoid as an Epileptic Patient
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- National Library of Medicine: “Seizures”
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Todd’s Paralysis”
- Epilepsy Foundation: “Types of Seizures”
- U.S. National Library of Medicine/StatPearls: "Simple Partial Seizure"
- Merck Manual: "Brain Dysfunction by Location"
- Epilepsy Foundation: "Focal Onset Impaired Awareness Seizures"
- Epilepsy Foundation: "Tonic-clonic Seizures"