Todd’s paralysis, also known as Todd’s paresis or Todd’s palsy, happens after a seizure. It usually affects people with epilepsy. It involves being temporarily unable to move all or part of the body.

Epilepsy causes changes in electrical activity in the brain that can stop it working for a brief period. The result is a seizure, which is sometimes called a convulsion or fit.

Afterward, the person may experience weakness or paralysis, and this is known as Todd’s paralysis. It may only affect one part of the body, such as one side.

There is no clear cause. Depending on the part of the brain affected, symptoms can include temporary problems with sight or speech, as well as loss of mobility.

In rare cases, people who do not have epilepsy develop Todd’s paralysis. It always happens after a seizure, and the seizure might result from a head injury, for example. This paralysis occurs after around 13% of all seizures.

In this article, we find out more about the condition, including its symptoms and possible causes.

Todd's paralysis stems from the brainShare on Pinterest
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Todd’s paralysis is also known as Todd’s paresis, Todd’s palsy, or postictal paresis. It is a neurological condition, meaning that it relates to the brain and nerves.

Different parts of the brain control different processes and activities in the body, such as speech and movement.

Most people who experience Todd’s paralysis have epilepsy, and the paralysis occurs immediately after an epileptic seizure. This is because the brain takes time to recover from a seizure, which can have lingering effects.

The paralysis may be confined to one hand, arm, or leg, but it can affect the whole body, causing full loss of movement and sensation.

Todd’s paralysis can also affect sight and speech. A person experiencing Todd’s paralysis may be unable to speak or have slurred speech. They may be unable to see, have blurred vision, or see flashing lights or colors.

Epileptic seizures have different stages:

  1. an aura or warning, though some people with epilepsy do not experience this
  2. the seizure itself, which is known as the “ictal” phase
  3. recovery, which is known as the “postictal” phase

Todd’s paralysis happens during the recovery phase, which is why it is sometimes called postictal paralysis.

Some people feel back to normal immediately after an epileptic seizure. For others, the recovery can take minutes or hours.

During the recovery stage, it is common for a person with epilepsy to experience confusion, tiredness, or dizziness.

Todd’s paralysis occurs after around 13% of all seizures. The paralysis can last between 30 minutes and 36 hours, after which feeling and movement will return completely, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports. The average duration of the paralysis 15 hours, the institute states.

A person may only experience Todd’s paralysis on one side of their body. In this case, it can resemble a stroke.

Differences from stroke

Todd’s paralysis usually affects one side of the body, causing weakness or a loss of sensation, and it can make speech slurred. Strokes can also cause these symptoms. The two health issues can resemble one another, but they require different treatments.

A person having a stroke needs emergency care. Doctors use medications or surgery to try to restore the flow of blood to the brain.

Strokes take time to recover from, and many people need rehabilitation. This may involve support that helps the person speak, grip things, and walk, for example.

By contrast, Todd’s paralysis goes away after a relatively short time, after 15 hours, on average. There is usually no lasting impact. It is usually linked to epilepsy, a condition that can be managed, in most cases.

However, unless it is evident that the paralysis has followed a seizure, it may be unclear whether a person is experiencing a stroke or Todd’s paralysis.

Anyone who experiences paralysis without a clear reason requires emergency medical care.

It is not clear what causes Todd’s paralysis, but it always occurs after a seizure. It lasts until the area of the brain affected by the seizure recovers.

Researchers theorize that it may result from disruptions to processes in the brain, which slow down brain activity. The motor centers, which are responsible for telling the body to move, tend to be affected.

In rare cases, Todd’s paralysis follows a head injury. It can be mistaken for a symptom of a brain injury and treated accordingly.

Todd’s paralysis does not affect everyone with epilepsy. No clear risk factors suggest that certain people are more likely to have it than others.

Because Todd’s paralysis happens immediately after a seizure, reducing the number of seizures reduces the likelihood of the paralysis. Having an effective epilepsy treatment plan is key.

Can natural treatments help manage epilepsy?

If someone has a seizure for the first time, they should see a doctor as soon as they can. The doctor may refer them to a brain and nerve specialist, known as a neurologist. It is worth remembering that seizures can happen for many reasons, and epilepsy is not the only cause.

Epilepsy can be hard to diagnose, so describing a seizure in detail can help. The neurologist may run tests to check the electrical activity of the brain and look for any damage.

If a person with epilepsy has symptoms of Todd’s paralysis, they should receive medical attention. The doctor or neurologist will ask about the symptoms and may check that the person’s medication regimen is correct.

There are currently no treatments for Todd’s paralysis. Managing epilepsy can help reduce the risk of seizures, and therefore also the risk of paralysis.

Medication that changes the levels of chemicals in the brain helps control seizures in around 70% of people with epilepsy.

Some people notice that their seizures have clear triggers, such as tiredness, flickering lights, or stress. Avoiding these can help prevent seizures.

A person with epilepsy may be able to tell when they are about to have a seizure. This awareness is known as a warning or aura. It may involve:

  • an unusual smell or taste
  • an intense feeling of fear or delight
  • an unsettled feeling in the stomach

If a person feels that they are about to have a seizure, they should try to get into a position where they cannot hurt themselves. This might involve lying on the floor away from walls and furniture and loosening any clothing around the neck. These precautions can help prevent injuries and obstructed breathing if a seizure occurs.

If Todd’s paralysis develops after a seizure, rest in as comfortable a position as possible until it goes away. The first time the paralysis occurs, the person requires medical attention.

Todd’s paralysis happens directly after a seizure. It may affect only one side of the body and involve slurred speech. While the symptoms can resemble those of a stroke, the recovery from this paralysis is much quicker.

Anyone who may be experiencing this issue for the first time requires medical attention. If a person has experienced it in the past, they should try to rest comfortably until the paralysis passes.

Todd’s paralysis usually affects people with epilepsy. It is often possible to reduce the number of seizures with the help of medication and self-care strategies, such as avoiding triggers.