Risk for Seizures After a Traumatic Brain Injury
A brain injury can cause many long-term problems in patients, resulting in frustrating and sometimes debilitating issues that have to be dealt with by medical professionals, family members and the patients themselves. One of those problems is seizures. While some people who have a TBI may never experience a seizure, it is a good idea to be on the lookout for risk factors and what a seizure looks like in order to understand how to best deal with the issue, and when and how to seek treatment.
Experts have found that about 5 percent of seizures occur in people with a TBI. Typically, the seizure occurs in the area where the brain was damaged in the injury, often where there is a scar. A seizure caused by a TBI may happen shortly after the injury, or may occur years later. A sudden electrical disturbance in the brain is what causes a seizure, which can result in some of the following symptoms:
Stiffening or shaking of the head, body or limbs
Staring and general unresponsiveness
Abnormal smell, sound, feeling or visual images
Fumbling movements, chewing or lip smacking
Inability to speak or understand other people
Sudden dizziness or tiredness
The symptoms of a seizure come on quickly and are uncontrollable for the patient. Some seizures may last only a few seconds, but may last for five to 10 minutes in some cases. During a seizure, a sufferer may be at risk for biting his or her tongue or the inside of the mouth. Afterwards, it may be difficult to stand, walk or communicate.
Conditions That Increase Seizure Risk
There are certain things that can cause the risk for seizures to increase, especially in TBI patients. Some of those conditions include the following:
Drug and alcohol use
Low sodium, high calcium or other chemical changes
Avoiding these situations can be helpful for those who experience seizures after a traumatic brain injury.
About 70 to 80 percent of people who have seizures resulting from a TBI can be treated using medications. A doctor prescribes the medication based on the type of seizures, as well as other factors such as age, health and side effects. Antiepileptic drugs, also called AEDs, can help control seizures, but can also cause common side effects such as fatigue, confusion and double vision. For most people, the side effects are better than having frequent seizures.
Having a seizure can be a scary experience, but when you are aware of the signs and symptoms, you and your caretakers can keep you as safe as possible during one.