Is It a Stroke or a Seizure?

While strokes and seizures are very different medical events, some of their symptoms overlap, and at first it is not clear which is occurring. But since time is critical when someone is having a stroke, and since seizures can also be very serious medical events, it is best to call 911 as soon as possible when you suspect either a stroke or a seizure.

Causes of stroke and seizure

A seizure is caused by a surge of electrical impulses in one area of the brain that usually spreads throughout the brain. A stroke, however, is caused by a lack of oxygen to part of the brain, caused either by a hemorrhage in the head or neck (hemorrhagic stroke) or by a blood clot that stops blood flow to the brain (ischemic stroke). This lack of oxygen causes the death of brain cells. 

Risk factors for stroke include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Heavy smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Certain medications
  • Diabetes
  • Certain cancers and blood disorders
  • Hospital stay and surgery
  • Injury to the head or neck, such as whiplash, which may cause hemorrhage or clots 

Risk factors for seizure include:

  • Head injury
  • Prior stroke
  • Infection in the brain such as meningitis or encephalitis
  • High fever
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Low blood sodium
  • High blood pressure
  • Illegal drugs and certain medications
  • Heavy alcohol consumption

Symptoms of stroke and seizure

Generally, strokes come on very suddenly, while seizures can give some warning. However, if a person has never before had a seizure, he or she may not recognize the warning signs. 

Early stages of seizure may include changes in the senses or vision, dizziness, or unexplained anxiety. This can occur minutes or even hours before the seizure. Later, a seizure may progress to a variety of symptoms, depending on the type of seizure:

  • Staring blankly, not responding to stimuli
  • Repeated movements, such as rapid blinking, hand rubbing, walking in circles
  • Involuntary jerking or twitching
  • Sudden stiffening of muscles
  • Impaired senses
  • Altered emotions
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Loss of muscle control that causes falls or head droop
  • Clenching of teeth, biting of tongue
  • Loss of consciousness

After the seizure, a person may experience sleepiness, confusion, memory loss, or temporary paralysis. Seizures usually last from 30 seconds to two minutes. If a seizure lasts more than five minutes, it is considered a medical emergency. 

A stroke usually occurs quite suddenly, and symptoms generally do not improve. A mini-stroke may pass within a short time, causing the patient to disregard the experience. However, never ignore such symptoms; one study found that 43% of stroke patients had a mini-stroke within a week of a major stroke. Getting medical attention as soon as possible could prevent the major event.

Symptoms of stroke include:

  • Numbness, tingling, or weakness, especially on one side of the body
  • Balance difficulties, dizziness, coordination
  • Eyesight changes, briefly losing sight in one eye, blurry or double vision
  • Severe headache
  • Confusion, memory issues
  • Slurred speech
  • Facial droop, usually on one side
  • Sudden onset of flu-like symptoms and nausea 

Clearly, there is an overlap in symptoms of seizure and stroke, therefore always seek medical attention quickly in order to limit long-term damage to the brain that can occur when medical attention after stroke is delayed.

Neuralert is committed to eliminating the devastating effects of stroke. If you are at a high risk of stroke, consider using our Stroke Detection System, which looks like a smartwatch and utilizes state-of-the-art AI technology to assess and alert medical professionals at the first sign of asymmetric arm movement, one of the most common early warnings of stroke onset. 

Stroke is treatable if detected in time. Neuralert’s wristband monitors can detect stroke symptoms in as little as 15 minutes, and 95% of strokes within an hour. Ask your doctor about adding Neuralert’s wristband to your stroke-prevention plan.