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Managing Seizures

Sometimes seizures occur after a stroke. Caregivers may want learn how to manage seizures that their loved one may experience

stressedWhat is a seizure?

A seizure is a disturbance or change in normal brain activity. The change in brain activity can cause changes in attention or behavior. Seizures can be partial or complete.

  • A partial seizure occurs in a certain part of the brain usually on one hemisphere or side of the brain.
  • A complete seizure occurs on both sides of the brain or hemispheres of the brain.

Seizures can be displayed in various ways and can be different in each person. Some people stare off into space, and others have violent tremors or shaking. People can also experience involuntary loss of their bowel or bladder contents and become unconscious. Some people can experience an aura or certain feeling before a seizure starts.

Things that can bring a seizure on…

  • Lack of sleep                                                
  • Smoking cigarettessmoking
  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes
  • Flashing lights or television and video games
  • Alcohol and drug intake
  • Pregnancy
  • Missing your anti-seizure medication.

What should I do if my loved has a seizure?

If your loved one has a seizure, the first priority is safety. Move them away from any hazards and protect their head from hitting anything. If he or she vomits or appears like they may vomit: roll them to their side so they do not choke on their vomit. Keep their airway opened to allow them to breathe easy, but do not put any object in their mouth. Then take him or her to the emergency room immediately.

If this is their first seizure or if the seizure is different from those in the past you should get them to the nearest emergency room: CALL 911.

What will they do in the emergency room?

Your loved one will be evaluated by an emergency room physician. The following tests can be helpful in determining what is causing the seizure.

  • Blood work will probably be obtained to check blood sugar, electrolytes, complete blood counts, kidney function, and liver functions.
  • A physician may also feel a CT or MRI (pictures of the brain) is necessary.
  • The physician may also order an EEG to look at the activity in the brain.
  • A physician may also feel it is necessary to do a lumbar puncture to check for infection. This is when a needle is placed into the spinal column to obtain cerebral spinal fluid.

What is the treatment for seizures?

The physician might order anti-seizure medications for your loved one. These medications can be given by mouth or through a vein.

  • Anti-seizure medications work by restoring normal brain activity, but these medications do not always prevent all seizures.
  • If your loved one is prescribed medications for seizures, blood work may need to be done periodically to check the level of medication in the blood stream. The medication then may need to be adjusted to maintain a certain level.
  • Be sure to check with your physician or pharmacist to see if certain foods should be avoided while taking anti-seizure medications.
  • Sometimes special surgeries can be performed to reduce or eliminate seizures and anti-seizure medications may still be necessary even after the surgery.
  • As a caregiver, you should keep a seizure diary to give to your loved one’s doctor. This will help the doctor determine what is causing the seizures.

Additional Information:

For more information on seizures, visit these helpful websites:

http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/aboutepilepsy/seizures/index.cfm

http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/aboutepilepsy/treatment/index.cfm

http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/epilepsy/detail_epilepsy.htm

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003200.htm


References:

Cash, J.C., & Glass, C.A. (2011). Family practice guideline (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer.

McPhee, S.J., & Papadakis, M.A. (2012). Current medical diagnosis & treatment. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Medline Plus. (2012). Seizures. Retrieved from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003200.htm

National Stroke Association. (2012). Effects of strokes. Retrieved from www.stroke.org

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes. (2012). Seizure and epilepsy: Hope through research. Retrieved from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/epilepsy/detail_epilepsy.htm

Developed in 2012 by Jennifer Ash RN, BSN at the University of Toledo for the Caring~Web©.

Last Updated: 6/17/14