A seizure aura is a feeling or sensation a person may experience during the initial phase of a seizure.
Seizure auras are a type of focal seizure, meaning they affect only one side of the brain. Sometimes, a person with epilepsy might have an aura that does not progress any further.
Usually, but not always, a seizure aura precedes additional seizure symptoms, which can involve one side of the brain — a focal or unilateral seizure — or both sides of the brain — a generalized seizure.
Seizure auras may feel different to different people. Common manifestations include a strong sensation of déjà vu, a sudden and intense feeling of fear or joy, or unusual tastes, smells, or visual disturbances.
This article describes what seizure auras are and what they feel like.
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The symptoms may manifest differently for different people. Common manifestations include:
- sudden and intense feelings
- sensory disturbances
- uncontrollable bodily sensations or movements
As the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) explains, a seizure aura is itself a type of focal seizure. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, focal seizures are those that occur on one side of the brain.
A focal seizure can spread to both sides of the brain, resulting in a more widespread generalized seizure.
For some people with epilepsy, a seizure aura can act as a warning sign that they are about to have a generalized seizure. For others, a seizure remains focal, affecting just one side of the brain.
However, symptoms of a focal seizure can progress beyond the aura symptoms and may involve movements on one side of the body, such as tonic-clonic movements.
According to the 2023 review, between
A seizure aura can manifest in different ways for different people. According to the United Kingdom’s Epilepsy Society, common manifestations include:
- a sense of déjà vu
- a sudden and intense feeling of fear or joy
- the sensation of a “wave” traveling through the head
- an unusual taste or smell
- visual disturbances, such as hallucinations or seeing colorful or flashing lights
- numbness or tingling sensations
- stiffness or twitching in part of the body
- a sensation that an arm or leg feels bigger or smaller than it is
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, other common symptoms that can occur before a seizure include:
For some people, a seizure aura can be a warning sign of an imminent tonic-clonic seizure. As such, people should take steps to remain as safe as possible in case a tonic-clonic seizure occurs.
People should try to get to a safe place where they will not get injured if they lose consciousness. Ideally, this would mean lying on a soft carpet or rug, away from furniture or other objects that could cause injury during a seizure.
If possible, the person should also notify someone that they may be about to experience a seizure. That way, the other person can help them stay safe and prepare to phone for an ambulance, if necessary.
General first aid tips
The following are general first aid tips for dealing with any type of seizure:
- stay with the person until the seizure ends or the person regains consciousness
- help the person to a safe place after the seizure has ended
- calmly explain to the person what has happened once they are fully alert and able to communicate
- comfort the person
- check to see if the person is wearing a medical bracelet or other emergency information
- help ensure the person gets home safely following the seizure
First aid tips for tonic-clonic seizures
A seizure aura can occur before a tonic-clonic seizure. A person experiencing a tonic-clonic seizure may cry out, fall, or shake. They may also lose consciousness.
The following are first aid tips for dealing with tonic-clonic seizures:
- ease the person to the floor to prevent them from falling
- turn the person gently onto their side to help them breathe
- loosen neckties or other objects around the person’s neck that may impair their breathing
- clear the area around the person to help prevent injury from hard or sharp objects
- place a folded jacket or other soft and flat object beneath the person’s head
- remove the person’s eyeglasses if they are wearing them
A person should also time the seizure and call for an ambulance if the seizure lasts longer than
Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about seizure auras.
What stage of the seizure is the aura?
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, a seizure aura is the first symptom of a seizure.
For some people, a seizure aura does not lead to additional symptoms. Usually, a seizure aura precedes further seizure symptoms that can involve one or both sides of the brain.
For others, a seizure aura can progress to a generalized seizure, meaning it involves both hemispheres of the brain.
How long after an aura do you have a seizure?
In a focal seizure, seizure auras can last from between a
Is anxiety a symptom of a seizure aura?
A seizure aura is a feeling or sensation a person may experience during the initial stages of a seizure. For some people, a seizure aura does not progress beyond a focal seizure.
For others, it can progress to a generalized seizure.
A person who experiences a seizure aura may want to take steps to ensure they remain as safe as possible in case their seizure progresses.
If possible, they should lie in a safe space, away from items that could cause injury. It is also a good idea to notify another person about the possibility of an imminent seizure.