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Stages of a Seizure

A seizure can have three stages. They are:

Aura Stage

For some types of seizures, an aura happens before a seizure and may alert a person that a seizure may occur. Auras typically begin seconds before the seizure.

The symptoms that accompany an aura can vary depending on the type of seizure and the area of the brain affected. Some symptoms of aura include:

  • Unusual feelings
  • Abnormal sensations
  • Forced thinking
  • Deja vu (familiar feelings) or jamais vu (unfamiliar feelings)
  • Perceived sounds, tastes, or smells (some people report smelling burning rubber, for example)
  • Physical sensations, like dizziness, headache, numbness, and lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Distorted emotions, such as panic or fear

At the University of Chicago Medicine, we offer an advanced treatment designed to prevent seizures before they start, and often before a patient feels the aura . The NeuroPace Responsive Neurostimulation System (RNS) is a tiny device that detects abnormal brain activity and responds in real time to deliver short bursts of electrical stimulation designed to reduce how often seizures happen. RNS treatment is just one of several treatment options we provide, from the latest anti-epileptic drugs to Visualase MRI-guided laser thermal ablation, a sophisticated procedure that uses lasers to destroy seizure-causing tissue with pinpoint accuracy. » Learn more about treatments for seizures and epilepsy

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Ictus Stage

Ictus is another word for the seizure itself -- the part of the seizure that outsiders can witness. It can be convulsive, commonly called “grand mal,” or non-convulsive, such as staring and inability to respond normally.

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Postictal Stage

The postictal stage occurs after the ictus or active stage of the seizure. During the postictal stage, the body begins to relax, and aftereffects may set in. The type and length of aftereffects will vary from person to person and may include:

  • Numbness
  • Headache
  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Partial paralysis
  • Confusion and agitation
  • Loss of consciousness or unresponsiveness
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

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