One of the good thing about auras, is that if you’re aware of them, they’re effective (if unpleasant) warning signals of an oncoming seizure. I didn’t learn to identify mine (mouth filling up with saliva and disgusting metallic taste) until I was well into my 20’s. Then I added dark spots to my repertoire and I was having all three when I met my husband!
The good news is that once I recognized them, I would instinctively know to hit the floor (before I fell) or find a safe place to weather out the storm…
The fact is: There are probably as many or more types of auras as there are types of epilepsy…
Auras can last from several seconds to as long as an hour, and can sometimes end with feelings of extreme tiredness, weakness, heart palpitation, sweating and warmth throughout one’s body. And some people can experience auras and have no seizure(s).
Each person and each person’s aura patterns are different. They vary significantly between each individual. Yours may happen right before a seizure or several minutes to hours earlier. Common warning signs right before seizures are changes in bodily sensations, changes in your ability to interact with things happening outside you, and changes in how familiar the outside world seems to you. Other warning signs that may happen hours before a seizure are depression, irritability, sleep disruption, nausea, and headache.
People with complex partial seizures are the most likely to experience warning signs. Approximately 55% to 65% of people with these seizures experience some type of aura. It’s unclear whether having seizures that arise from one particular side of the brain makes you more likely to have auras than people whose seizures arise on the other side.
For lots of people, auras occur in an ordered progression. First you may feel fear…then déjà vu (the feeling that you’ve been there before)…then a strange taste in your mouth.
The part of your brain where your seizures originate (your seizure focal point) also may be linked to a specific type of aura because an aura represents the beginning of a seizure. Since different parts of the brain are responsible for different things, the warning signs you experience will be related to the functions of the section of brain where the seizure is about to occur. People whose seizures begin in the temporal lobe tend to have certain types of auras and those whose seizures begin somewhere else often will have different types.
Here are some types of auras that can happen alone or in combinations…
Vibrating visual field
Distortions in size, shape or distance of objects
Bright lights or blobs
Blind or dark spots in the field of vision
Curtain-like effect over one eye
Blindness in one eye
Hallucinations — hearing voices or sounds that don’t exist
Being unable to understand spoken words
Loud or whispered volume
Changes in heart rate
Saliva collecting in mouth
Limbs jerking involuntarily
Numbness or tingling on one side of face or body
Feeling of being separated from your body
Needing to urinate
Anxiety or fear
Déjà vu or jamais vu, a sense of familiarity or unfamiliarity
To subscribe to Epilepsytalk.com and get the latest articles, go to the bottom box of the right column and click on “Sign me up!”
Steven C. Schachter, M.D.