Strokes and seizures are two separate issues that affect the brain. Each issue has different causes, symptoms, and treatments. However, the symptoms can sometimes overlap, especially in cases where a stroke triggers a seizure.
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked or bursts, interrupting the supply of oxygenated blood to the brain. This causes brain cells to die. Symptoms depend on the area and extent of brain cell death.
A seizure occurs as a result of an electrical disturbance in the brain. Some seizures have an underlying cause, while others have no identifiable cause.
This article reviews the similarities and differences between strokes and seizures in terms of their causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention.
Both strokes and seizures have different underlying causes and risk factors.
Importantly, a stroke can cause a seizure, whereas a seizure cannot cause a stroke.
The causes of strokes and seizures are outlined below.
There are two types of stroke:
- Ischemic stroke: An ischemic stroke that occurs due to a blockage within a blood vessel in the brain. This is the
most common typeof stroke.
- Hemorrhagic stroke: A hemorrhagic stroke that occurs due to a burst blood vessel in the brain.
Seizures may be provoked or unprovoked.
Provoked seizures are those that have an identifiable underlying cause. Unprovoked seizures are those that have no known underlying cause or happen more than a
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The symptoms of strokes and seizures generally differ. However, strokes can share symptoms with certain types of seizure. For example, both strokes and complex focal seizures
Stroke symptoms vary depending on the area and extent of brain cell death.
Some early signs of stroke include:
- sudden and severe headache
- nausea or vomiting
- numbness or weakness on one side of the face or body
- loss of balance or coordination
- inability to walk
- memory loss
- vision loss
- difficulty understanding or producing speech
A stroke is a medical emergency. People should call 911 immediately if they notice signs of stroke in themselves or others.
The symptoms of a seizure depend on the type a person experiences. According to the
A generalized seizure affects both sides of the brain. Symptoms may include:
- blinking rapidly
- staring into space
- crying out
- losing consciousness
- falling to the ground
- having muscle spasms
A focal seizure affects only one part of the brain. Symptoms may include:
- muscle twitching
- changes in taste or smell sensations
- temporary inability to respond to questions or directions
Doctors treat strokes and seizures differently. The different treatment approaches are outlined below.
According to the
- emergency treatment
- preventive treatment
Emergency treatment aims to either resolve a blockage or fix a burst vessel. Such treatment may include:
- thrombolytic drugs to help break up and dissolve blood clots
- antithrombotic drugs to help thin the blood and reduce the risk of further blood clots
- neuroprotectant medications to help protect the brain from secondary injury
- surgery to repair burst blood vessels or clear blood vessel obstructions
Preventive treatments or therapies aim to reduce a person’s risk of having another stroke. Examples include:
- lifestyle changes, such as:
- treating underlying conditions that increase the risk of stroke, such as:
Rehabilitation involves therapies to help improve disabilities and restore function. Examples include:
Treatment for seizures
A person who has an underlying condition that increases their risk of seizures may need to continue or adjust their treatment for the condition. This may include continuing or adjusting an antiepileptic treatment regimen.
Adults who experience their first unprovoked seizure may not need any special treatment. Instead, a doctor may advise that the person takes caution during certain activities until they have received further tests.
- They have an underlying medical condition.
- They are hurt as a result of the seizure.
- They experience difficulty breathing or waking following the seizure.
- The seizure is the first they have ever experienced.
- The seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
- Another seizure occurs soon after the first one.
- The seizure occurs in water.
A person who witnesses another person having a seizure should:
- Stay with the person until the seizure ends.
- Speak calmly to the person.
- Check to see if the person is wearing a medical bracelet.
- Offer to call for transportation such as a taxi or Uber or help the person get home safely.
It is not always possible to prevent a stroke or seizure. However, certain lifestyle changes can help reduce a person’s risk of developing either condition.
Tips to help prevent stroke include:
- treating or managing underlying cardiovascular conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease
- quitting smoking if you smoke
- managing cholesterol levels
- getting regular physical exercise
A healthcare professional may also recommend preventive medications, such as anticoagulants or antiplatelet drugs, depending on your needs.
Tips a person can follow to help prevent a seizure
- taking steps to prevent traumatic brain injury, such as wearing a seatbelt or a wearing safety helmet as appropriate
- taking steps to lower the risk of a stroke or heart attack
- practicing good hygiene to help prevent certain parasitic infections that can cause seizures
- taking anti-seizure medication as prescribed
Strokes and seizures both affect the brain.
A stroke occurs as a result of a blocked or ruptured blood vessel in the brain, while a seizure is due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Whereas a stroke can cause a seizure, a seizure does not cause a stroke.
Strokes and seizures typically cause different symptoms, though both can cause cognitive impairments, such as confusion. The two conditions also require different treatment approaches.
There are steps a person can take to help reduce their risk of strokes and seizures.
Stroke prevention includes managing high blood pressure and high cholesterol, quitting smoking if you smoke, and maintaining a moderate weight.
Seizure prevention also involves making these changes, as well as taking steps to reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury.