The Warning Signs of Seizures After Brain Trauma

The Warning Signs of Seizures After Brain Trauma

When the brain suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI), despite its severity, it is likely there will be bruising and scarring left from the trauma. We can liken a seizure to an irritation or chain reaction in the brain because of the hardened scar tissue, which the brain does not react well to. Dr. Glen Johnson uses the analogy of a room filled with mouse traps, set with ping pong balls instead of cheese. If you threw a ping pong ball into the room, before long, all the traps will be set off. Fortunately, there are some warning signs to watch out for and recognize the onset of seizures after brain trauma.

Are seizures common after brain trauma?

Generally, after any brain injury, neurons (brain cells) are damaged or killed and so seizures are not uncommon. These are either experienced soon after a TBI or later, although they usually become less common after a week. Seizures which do occur more than a week after the TBI tend to come back again and therefore, qualify as epilepsy. Post-traumatic epilepsy (PTE) is defined as a condition of recurrent seizures from a localized injury, in other words, following a trauma. 

So, what exactly is an epileptic seizure?

According to Headway, a mental health services organization, an epileptic seizure is “a sudden change in movement, behavior or perception caused by uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain.” When this happens, the brain's nerve cells become overactive and erratic, and this causes nearby cells to do the same - i.e. the 'ping pong' analogy as described above. In most scenarios, an individual will exhibit physical external symptoms, but some can suffer from internal signs and feelings that cannot be seen.

Warning Signs

Some people have similar experiences in the moments before they have a seizure. These are called 'preictal' ('before the seizure') and the internal feelings they create are often referred to as 'auras.'

Some examples of these preictal auras are:

  • a tingling sensation in the stomach or other parts of the body
  • seeing bright lights or stars, blurred vision
  • hearing music or sounds that are not there
  • experience a smell of burning (often rubber) or a strange taste in your mouth;
  • out of body experiences, seeing yourself as another person;
  • periods of forgetfulness
  • jerking movements of limbs
  • staring
  • suddenly falling for no reason
  • stiffening or numbing of the body
  • feel a rapid change of temperature in the room or space around you
  • periods of rapid eye blinking
  • biting tongue or lips
  • incontinence
  • grimacing

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a seizure following a recent brain trauma it's important to contact a medical professional right away to determine if you should be evaluated by a doctor.

For more information about life after a traumatic injury, check out the resources section of our website.

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