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The Symptoms & After Effects of Seizures for the Elderly

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms
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Seizures can happen to us at any age, and can strike without warning. Despite this, they remain an issue that few people understand, and are especially common for senior citizens. There are a number of causes of seizures, along with a variety of after effects of a seizure that sufferers must contend with.

To understand seizures, we begin with what happens when you have a seizure.

The anatomy of a seizure

Seizures are a reaction to changes in the brain’s electrical activity. That is the basis of how seizures happen, but there are a number of different seizure types, each having their own effect on the patient. These are:

Focal Seizures

These are seizures that are localised to one area of the brain, and can occur both with and without a loss of consciousness. These are separated into two types.

  • Focal Seizures with Impaired Awareness – this involves a loss of consciousness or awareness, and feel like being in a dream. During such a seizure, the patient may seem like they are awake, but do not respond to anything around them, and will perform repetitive movements including repeating a word or rubbing their hands together. Once it is over, they may not remember the seizure at all.
  • Focal Seizures without Impaired Awareness – patients do not lose consciousness but will experience a range of symptoms. This could be emotional change, they may see things differently visually, find things taste, sound or smell differently too.

Focal seizures can leave patients feeling intense emotions, and they may be overwhelmingly sad, happy or angry, and can be accompanied by tingling sensations, flashing lights in their vision, and involuntary twitching of an arm or leg.

Generalized Seizures

These are types of seizure that affect all aspects of the brain. Again, there are several types, each affecting the patient in a slightly different way.

  • Absence Seizures – These appear as a patient staring into space or repeating small body movements. They are one of the more common types of seizure experienced by children. Lasting for 10 seconds or so, patients can experience hundreds in a day. A string of them close together can lead to a loss of awareness.
  • Tonic Seizures – These types of seizures are signified by stiffening of the muscles, usually in the arms, back and legs. Patients can lose consciousness during this kind of seizure.
  • Atonic Seizures – Here there is a complete loss of muscle control, causing the patient to suddenly fall to the floor. They present a danger of head or other fall injury to the patient.
  • Clonic Seizures – These involve repeated, involuntary jerking movements, and usually affect the neck, face and arms.
  • Myoclonic Seizures – Signified by brief jerking or twitching of the legs and arms, usually without a loss of consciousness.
  • Tonic-Clonic Seizures – Probably the type of seizure you imagine when someone mentions an epileptic seizure. The most dramatic, they involve a loss of consciousness, the body stiffens and then shakes, and can last for several minutes.

The Causes of Seizure

While at their root, the reason for seizures is a change in electrical activity, the cause of seizures varies. Common triggers for seizures include a lack of sleep, stress, alcohol, dehydration, illness such as Flu, rapidly flashing lights can also cause problems.

However, the number one common seizure triggers is missed medication. Those suffering from epilepsy can manage their symptoms reasonably well, however missing medication can see an increase in the occurrence of seizures.

There are many reasons for seizures, however if you look at them all, there is a common theme. We often hear the question, can stress cause a seizure, and the answer is yes. From stress to lack of sleep or dehydration, all have an impact on the efficient working of the brain. Staying healthy and providing the body with everything it needs, plenty of rest, water and so on, can help with any seizure problem.

What does a seizure feel like?

We have examined the various types of seizure and what they do. We know what does a seizure look like, and it can be very different depending on the type, but for the patient, what does a seizure feel like?

In many cases, the patient loses consciousness, but for those where the patient maintains awareness, it is often a general feeling of something being wrong, but no focus on what that may be. Arms and legs may tingle, and as the seizure plays out, the patient may experience very strong emotions, including anger, sadness and joy.

People often wonder if seizures are painful.

Once the seizure is over, the patient may also experience the after effects of a seizure, and these can last for significantly longer. In the immediate aftermath, after effects of seizures include confusion, fatigue and loss of memory. Not only can patients lose memory of the seizure itself, but that often includes 10 minutes or so before eth seizure happened too.

Headaches can come and go for a while afterwards as well, often recurring for several days, while patients can frequently have heart or breathing problems after a seizure. In addition, feelings of weakness in muscles, nausea and vomiting can all occur in the few days after a seizure.

What causes seizures in elderly people?

While anyone can suffer from a seizure, it can be especially difficult for older patients. Understanding what causes seizures in elderly for the first time can help protect patients if we know they are at risk. Seizures in elderly patients are especially dangerous with the potential for loss of consciousness and fall related injuries that follow from it.

Elderly patients may develop new-onset epilepsy or other seizures due to other illnesses, including cerebrovascular diseases, but especially primary neuron degenerative disorders associated with cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Dealing with a seizure

If someone has a seizure, whether they have previously had one or not, it can be a scary situation to witness. There are some things you can do to help them through it, the crucial part is to look at what is happening, assess the situation and take action of needed.

  • Are they in danger? – If they are in a dangerous position, close to a road or in danger of knocking something like a pan of boiling water on the stove at home, carefully move them to a safer place. If not, just leave them, you should avoid movement unless it is essential. Place something soft under their head if possible to avoid banging on the ground.
  • Can they breathe? – Loosen any clothing around the neck, such as a tie, to ensure they can breathe easily.
  • Be there for them – Talk to them, let them know someone is there to help.
  • Recovery Position – Once the seizure is over, put the patient in the recovery position and let them regain awareness naturally.

Seizures can be an issue for people of all ages, but today can be managed relatively effectively. If someone you know is having a seizure, you can follow the above guidelines, but if the seizure lasts far longer than usual, or they do not regain full consciousness, they may need medical help and you should call an ambulance. If you see someone you don’t know having a seizure, you should always call an ambulance to help them.

At SureSafe, we provide alarms with automatic fall detection. These alarms will call for help if an individual does not regain full consciousness. To discuss our alarms in more detail, have a chat with our friendly, professional team today on 0800 112 3201.

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