How the body responds after a seizure depends on the areas of the brain affected. Here are symptoms that could occur, from deep sleep to dizziness and more.
One in ten people will have a seizure in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). How the body responds to a seizure depends on what area of the brain is affected by the abnormal electrical activity. Once the seizure is over, additional symptoms can occur.
Seizures occur for various reasons – epilepsy, high fever, low blood sugar, withdrawal from drugs or alcohol or another medical issue that might cause abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Some people will have a single episode that is never repeated, while others have recurring seizures that could require medication or other treatment. Regardless of what caused a seizure, after-seizure symptoms will vary from person to person and episode to episode.
“Some individuals who have epilepsy that is related to a genetic predisposition to seizures can have headaches, problems concentrating and generalized muscle aches and pains after seizures,” explains Steven Rider, MD, a neurologist at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. When seizures occur due to an area of damage in the brain, you can have difficulty with functions related to that area. For example, if a seizure originates near the cerebral cortex that controls motor function, you may experience temporary weakness of an arm or leg or both. “Usually, any lingering deficits after any type of seizure last sometimes minutes to hours, rarely days,” says Dr. Rider.
Loss of Consciousness
It is not uncommon to become unconscious during certain types of seizures. According to the Mayo Clinic, a person may be unresponsive for several minutes after a seizure ends. If they remain unconscious for longer than a few moments, seek medical attention.
Bowel and Bladder Incontinence
Bowel and bladder control are functions of the brain, spinal cord and muscles associated with each function. A study published in the International Neurology Journal found an association between activity in the frontal lobe of the brain and incontinence. While more research is needed, the report suggests that a generalized seizure in this area could cause electrical activity to signal sphincter muscles to release urine, and muscles in the rectum and anus to release feces. It’s also possible that the pressure from the contraction and subsequent relaxing of the contraction may cause the muscles to release and incontinence to occur. Approximately 39 percent of people with epilepsy experience incontinence associated with seizures.
A severe headache or a migraine is a symptom that may be present before, during or after a seizure. According to a research review published in the Journal of Epilepsy Research, the two conditions have a common genetic predisposition and have similar mechanisms for occurring. Additionally, there are documented reports of headache being the singular output of an epileptic seizure. Some antiseizure medications are actually used to treat migraines.
A study published in Brain: A Journal of Neurology explored why people sometimes fall into a deep sleep after a seizure. While more research is needed, a link was found between the number of rapid muscle contractions ‒ known as clonic bursts ‒ during a seizure, the duration between the clonic bursts, and how long a deep sleep lasted after the end of the seizure. The longer the time between the last clonic burst and the end of the seizure, the longer the rest period. Once the seizure is over, brain activity is temporarily suppressed as a sort of recovery period. Sleeping after a seizure is normal and recommended as long as vital signs are in an acceptable range. Your doctor will be able to help determine an acceptable range for you based on your health history.
Your body goes through a lot of stress and strain during a seizure. It is quite possible to feel sick once it’s over. Abdominal pain with nausea and vomiting, sweating, fatigue and headache may occur. Some people may have a type of temporal lobe epilepsy called abdominal epilepsy, and gastrointestinal symptoms may be the only effect they experience, according to a review published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research.
- Steven Rider, MD, neurologist, University of Tennessee Medical Center.
- Mayo Clinic: “Grand Mal Seizure.”
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Epilepsy.”
- International Neurology Journal: “Central Regulation of Micturition and Its Association with Epilepsy.”
- Journal of Epilepsy Research: “Headache and Epilepsy.”
- Brain: A Journal of Neurology: “Dynamics of convulsive seizure termination and postictal generalized EEG suppression.”
- Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research: “Abdominal Epilepsy in an Adult: A Diagnosis Often Missed.”