Epilepsy Talk

A Menu of Epilepsy Auras | May 2, 2017

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 and every person’s aura patterns are different.  They vary significantly between individuals.

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…

Visual changes

Kaleidoscope effects

Visual hallucinations

Shimmering sensations

Vibrating visual field

Distortions in size, shape or distance of objects

Bright lights or blobs

Zigzag lines

Tunnel vision

Blind or dark spots in the field of vision

Curtain-like effect over one eye

Blindness in one eye

Motionless stare

Dilated pupils

Auditory changes

Hallucinations — hearing voices or sounds that don’t exist

Being unable to understand spoken words

Muffled sounds

Buzzing noises

Loud or whispered volume

Temporary deafness

Physical changes

Weakness, unsteadiness

Changes in heart rate

Sweating

Nausea

Vertigo

Saliva collecting in mouth

Lip smacking

Chewing

Swallowing

Strange smells

Problems speaking

Repetitive movements

Limbs jerking involuntarily

Numbness or tingling on one side of face or body

Feeling of being separated from your body

Needing to urinate

Psychological changes

Confusion

Anxiety or fear

Physical detachment

Déjà vu or jamais vu, a sense of familiarity or unfamiliarity

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Resources:

Steven C. Schachter, M.D.

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1184509-overview

https://www.epilepsydiagnosis.org/seizure/aura-overview.html

http://www.webmd.com/epilepsy/tc/aura-and-seizures-topic-overview

https://www.verywell.com/what-is-an-aura-1204511

http://www.healthtalk.org/young-peoples-experiences/epilepsy/experiences-different-seizures-and-auras

 


23 Comments »

  1. I have many of these sensations. I think it needs to be remembered that an aura is a type of focal seizure that can, but not always, lead to a generalized or tonic-clonic seizure.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Brian W. Refford — May 2, 2017 @ 11:45 AM

    • That’s right. It’s a Simple Partial Seizure in itself.

      The aura IS the seizure — one that has not spread into an observable seizure that impairs consciousness and your ability to respond.

      You don’t lose consciousness.

      In other words, something is going on in your brain. But it isn’t spreading.

      Sometimes this abnormal electrical activity tapers off.

      At other times, it spreads and leads to severe seizures.

      Auras can occur as a warning that a bigger seizure is about to happen.

      And sometimes they can occur just by themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 2, 2017 @ 1:28 PM

  2. my aura,s started with a headache,then pressure that want from my shoulder,s down front and back. sometimes the pressure was strong, when it want through me it was gone, in less than a second.

    Like

    Comment by Michele Metzger — May 2, 2017 @ 1:03 PM

  3. Have you been in touch with the Anita Kaufman Foundation?

    Like

    Comment by TT — May 2, 2017 @ 1:30 PM

  4. Love this blog, in particular. Thanks for examining auras, Phyllis.

    I’ve always wondered about the assertion that auras are seizures in themselves. Mine – detachment from my physical self, difficulty saying more than one or two words at a time, not caring that a tonic-clonic seizure is about to hit (therefore, doing nothing about it) – often last for several hours. Does that mean they’re status epilepticus episodes or are they something else entirely?

    — Alison

    Like

    Comment by Alison Zetterquist — May 2, 2017 @ 2:23 PM

    • Status epilepticus is said to occur when a seizure lasts too long or when seizures occur close together and the person doesn’t recover between seizures.

      Just like there are different types of seizures, there are also different types of status epilepticus.

      Over the last several decades, the length of seizure that is considered as status epilepticus has shortened.

      Years ago, a seizure needed to last longer than 20 minutes to be considered status epilepticus. In the last few years, it is now defined as any seizure greater than 5 minutes.

      This makes sense because most seizures do not last longer than 2 minutes.

      However, in the pre-aura state (Prodromal), symptoms can occur hours or even days before a seizure ensues.

      Here’s a link you might find helpful:

      The Four Stages of Seizures – Prodromal, Auras, Ictal and Postictal

      https://epilepsytalk.com/2016/01/18/the-four-stages-of-seizures-prodromal-auras-ictal-and-postictal/

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 2, 2017 @ 3:43 PM

      • Thank you, Phylis. I’lll look forward to following the link to find out more! All the best to you, Alison

        Like

        Comment by shedlightonepilepsy — May 2, 2017 @ 4:23 PM

  5. Saliva collecting in my mouth? Wow! I don’t always have an Aura, but for some reason, *almost every time I get in a shower (doesn’t matter the temperature of water), I’d have to put TP in my mouth in order to get the build-up of saliva! Today, I noticed that I didn’t need to. Or last time! I don’t “have one” EVERY time after a shower. But the chances are greater. I’ve never understood “why.” So I came to my own conclusions that 1. I must have had a traumatic child birth. Or 2. Something terrible (besides fever) happened to me. I’m always trying to “put the pieces of puzzle together.” **Another thing said back then was that a *healthy baby was born at 2 a.m. (?) Why 2a.m.? I was born at 6p.m. My brother before me with no problems (you guessed it) was *miraculously born at 2a.m. The “magical hour!” SO, do I have “blackouts,” auras, etc *because of the *TIME of day I was born? And if so, what’s the big deal about what *TIME one is born?

    Like

    Comment by EJ Parker — May 4, 2017 @ 1:18 PM

    • I don’t know EJ! The body temperature of going from cool to another temperature of water could be a trigger…but there’s not much of a temperature change you say. And the saliva problem has mysteriously disappeared?

      As for your birth, what happens between 2am and 6pm? Are you a twin? Was there “birth trauma”? Did they screw up the times?

      You sure have me stumped.

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 4, 2017 @ 2:42 PM

      • Phylis, My brother was born almost two years before me. As far as the birth, I don’t know. I have been told that some doctors would force a child’s birth at 2 a.m., giving them the chance of “a better life.” Excuse me? Mine wasn’t important? I was told that when 6 months old, “You had a high temperature of 106 degrees, destroying some of the cells from your brain. Those cells can never be replaced, causing “blackouts.” This was in the day when a *First Born was most important. Especially a boy. We also still had the Military Draft. So most guys went in the service as soon as finishing high school. My brother found a way to get out of being drafted.

        Like

        Comment by EJ Parker — June 25, 2017 @ 3:45 PM

      • Force a child’s birth at 2 a.m., giving them the chance of “a better life”? What are you chopped chicken liver?

        So you had Febrile Seizures?

        “Complex Febrile Seizures
        May be more threatening. They can last longer than 15 minutes and although only one side of the body is affected during a complex febrile seizure, neurological reports may indicate abnormalities.
        In both cases, febrile seizures pose no threat of mental retardation, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, or death. Only 25-30% of children who experience one will ever have another. And the incidence of febrile seizures does not indicate a possibility of developing long-term epilepsy. Less than 2% of children who experience febrile seizures will develop epilepsy later in life. Febrile seizures are classed as incidents rather than as a condition.”

        I can believe the blackout part, although I’ve never researched it.

        But the fact that you came last, just plain stinks.

        Like

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 25, 2017 @ 3:54 PM

  6. THANK YOU FOR ALL THE INFORMATION YOU ARE PROVIDING!!!!!!!!!!! DO YOU HAVE A BROCHURE FOR DOCTORS OFFICES THAT REFERENCES THIS WEB SITE AND THE AVAILABLE EMAIL EPILEPSY NEWS? …I have Left Temporal Lobe partial complex, diagnosed in 1955…

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Suzanne Spears — May 10, 2017 @ 1:06 AM

    • Suzanne, thanks for the compliment. I’m overwhelmed. But no, I don’t have any brochures.
      It’s just word of mouth! 🙂

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 10, 2017 @ 8:00 AM

  7. has anyone ever had temporal lobe surgery for there epilepsy? can the surgery make you depressed?
    after surgery has anyone had a build up of fluid in the head ? due to this the doctor has had to put a shunt in the head going down to the stomach to drain excess fluid.
    has this ever happened to anyone?
    how are you coping with this?

    Like

    Comment by Richard sam — June 7, 2017 @ 7:02 AM

    • I can tell you about temporal lobe surgery, but I don’t have any knowledge about shunts or drainage. 😦

      Temporal Lobectomy: The most common surgical procedure performed for epilepsy is the removal of a portion of the temporal lobe, or temporal lobectomy.

      These brain structures play an important role in the majority of temporal lobe seizures involving the seizure focus, or small area of the brain where seizures originate.

      The cerebrum, or largest part of your brain, is divided into four paired sections, called lobes — the frontal, parietal, occipital and temporal.

      In a temporal lobe resection, brain tissue in the temporal lobe is resected, or cut away, to remove the seizure focus.

      In most cases, a mere 2 inches is removed. All or part of a left or right lobe may be removed surgically.

      These areas of the brain are common sites of simple and complex partial seizures, some of which may secondarily generalize.

      Seizures in the temporal, parietal, frontal or occipital lobes may be treated surgically if the seizure-producing area can be safely removed without damaging vital functions.

      It is the most successful type of epilepsy surgery and over 85% of patients enjoy a marked improvement in seizure control.

      Most of them need less medication after surgery.

      Approximately 25% of those who are seizure-free can eventually discontinue antiepileptic drugs.

      However, up to 15% of patients notice no improvement post-surgery.

      Like

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 7, 2017 @ 8:16 AM

  8. I was recorded for 3 days and I usually have something every day! I told the Epileptologist sorry nothing! He said I have seen them in the office. I have noted your migraines too! I always apologize. Having had 2 surgeries I have multiple auras!

    Like

    Comment by red2robi — June 9, 2017 @ 9:24 AM

  9. Really enjoy your blog Phylis – thank you so much for all that you do! My seizures arise from surgery after a very large meningioma. My neurologist was telling me that he really can’t say for certain what part of the brain the seizures come from as so much area of the brain was compressed by the tumor prior to surgery and then there is additionally injury from the surgery itself to cause problems. Seizures are always tonic-clonic and I can’t tell when they are going to happen. My husband however says he has noticed that the evenings before they happen that I tend to be tired, withdrawn and speak in only the shortest of replies….as little as possible. Those are the nights, when we go to bed, that he mentally prepares himself…..that this will likely be one of those nights when he is awakened as I have a violent seizure next to him….or as has happened a couple of times, on the floor next to the bed (need to get a bed rail!). Would you say that particular behavior is considered to be an aura? Odd that I don’t realize my behavior….for some reason my husband never thinks to mention it ahead of time either.

    Like

    Comment by Ellen LaFrancis — September 10, 2017 @ 11:08 PM

  10. Tartan pattern,visual effects

    Like

    Comment by Sandra — October 3, 2017 @ 8:15 AM


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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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