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Strokes & Seizures

Both strokes and seizures are serious medical emergencies that impact brain activity in distinct ways. A stroke is caused by an interruption of oxygen-rich blood circulation to the brain, and brain cell death can occur within minutes. A stroke can cause permanent disability, especially without prompt medical treatment. By contrast, seizures occur as a result of excessive electrical activity in the brain, and usually the effects of a seizure are temporary. However, the differences between the two conditions can be confusing, especially if you are unfamiliar with these conditions.

Some of the overlapping symptoms of strokes and seizures include:

  • Headaches
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Inability to understand someone else
  • Loss of consciousness

If you’re unsure if someone has had a seizure or a stroke, you should call 9-1-1 for emergency medical treatment. Paramedics can provide life-saving treatment en route to the ER.

Is it a Stroke or a Seizure?

Strokes and seizures are distinct brain events. While strokes are caused by a lack of blood supply to a specific area of the brain from an arterial blockage or brain bleeding, seizures are caused by sudden surges in the brain’s electrical activity. Sometimes people who have had a stroke will also suffer a seizure if the brain forms scar tissue that sends out abnormal electrical signals. On the other hand, seizures do not cause strokes.

If you think someone is having a stroke or a seizure, call 9-1-1 and describe everything that has happened to the dispatcher and the emergency medical team once they arrive. The sooner a stroke patient gets to the ER, the better their odds of survival. Timing is key. Do not attempt to move a person who may have suffered a stroke or seizure, and do not give them medicine.