Epilepsy Talk

If You DON’T Have Epilepsy, Then WHAT Is It??? | September 11, 2018

You might call them “imitators” of epilepsy, but that’s kind of extreme. You might say “similar” or you might say “confused”, which I think they are.

In a previous article titled “Conditions Commonly Misdiagnosed as Epilepsy”,  I thought I had it all covered.

* First Seizures

* Febrile Seizures

* Nonepileptic Seizure Disorder (NESD)

* Eclampsia

* Meningitis

* Encephalitis

* Migraine

* Sleep Disorders

* Brain Injury

* Cardiac Disorders

* TIAs

* Mental Health

* Failed Drug Therapy.

But, believe it or not, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

I dug deeper and researched further and here is what I learned about signs and signals which might cause epilepsy, might show the same symptoms of epilepsy, or might be masquerading in their own way as epilepsy…


Tumors can cause epileptic seizures.

According to Cornell University, some brain tumors can cause seizures over a prolonged period without causing other symptoms; such tumors are usually slow growing, benign lesions.

Brain tumors that can cause epileptic seizures include glial tumors, glioneuronal tumors and other tumors of the temporal lobe.

Cornell University states that glial tumors, such as astrocytomas and oligodendrogliomas, develop from brain cells known as glia that surround neurons or nerve cells, and that glial tumors are categorized as fast-growing or slow-growing.

Slow-growing glial tumors account for up to 70 percent of tumors that cause epilepsy.

Glioneuronal tumors, such as gangliogliomas and dysembryoplastic neuroepithelial, or DNT tumors, are a combination of glial and neuronal cells, and they often cause partial seizures.

Other tumors in the brain’s temporal lobe, especially ones that affect a person’s hippocampus and amygdala — two important brain structures — can also produce epileptic seizures.


The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, or NINDS — a division of the National Institutes of Health — states that the brain’s attempts to repair itself following a traumatic head injury, stroke or other problem can inadvertently produce aberrant nerve connections that cause epileptic seizures.

Stroke, heart attacks and other conditions that starve the brain of oxygen may cause epilepsy in some cases.

According to the organization Stroke Awareness For Everyone, or SAFE, one of the many after-effects of stroke is the onset of epileptic-like seizures or recurrent seizures.

Among older individuals who develop seizures for the first time, stroke is often the underlying cause.

SAFE notes that stroke-related seizures are usually the result of hemorrhages in which blood squirts out of an artery into brain tissue.

The pressure of the blood tears the brain tissue as it creates a space for itself outside the artery.


According to Epilepsy Ontario, approximately 1 percent of children in industrialized nations experience a central nervous system, or CNS, infection by the age of 10, and those children that survive the infection have a 5 to 10 percent greater likelihood of developing epilepsy.

Epilepsy Ontario states that a child’s risk for epilepsy does not depend on the age at which the infection occurs, but it does vary based on the cause of the infection.

Possible sources of CNS infection include aseptic meningitis, bacterial meningitis, viral encephalitis and brain abscesses.

According to Epilepsy Ontario, approximately 5 percent of people will have one or more infection-related seizures during a CNS infection, and those who have infection-related seizures have a greater risk of developing epilepsy later in life.


Syncope (fainting), a brief lapse of consciousness in which blood flow to the brain is temporarily reduced, can mimic epilepsy.

It is often misdiagnosed as a seizure. Patients with syncope do not have the rhythmic contracting and then relaxing of the body’s muscles.

Panic Attacks

In some patients, partial seizures may resemble a panic disorder.

Symptoms of panic disorder include palpitations, sweating, trembling, sensation of breathlessness, chest pain, feeling of choking, nausea, faintness, chills or flushes, fear of losing control, and fear of dying.


Narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that causes a sudden loss of muscle tone and excessive daytime sleepiness, can be confused with epilepsy.


Early malnutrition can lead to neuronal deficit, with cognitive alterations and growth and developmental disorders in experimental models, possibly causing more susceptibility to seizures.

Apparently, malnutrition is not a direct cause of epilepsy, but it can decrease the threshold to seizure.


A condition in which blood sugar (glucose) levels are abnormally low.

It is a serious condition because the body uses glucose for fuel, and when levels are too low, many organ systems (particularly the brain and nervous system) malfunction.

Not every seizure is epilepsy.

Those that are due to other conditions such as a high fever in an infant, brain infections, or alcohol or drug withdrawal may not be called epilepsy.

Some symptoms that look like a seizure are actually caused by problems in other parts of the body.

Fainting, migraine headaches, narcolepsy, drug use, mental illness, heart conditions and many other medical problems can cause symptoms similar to a seizure.

Any condition that affects the brain has the potential to cause a seizure.

Genuine causes of seizures (but not necessarily epilepsy) can include:

Abnormal levels of sodium or glucose in the blood

Brain injury (such as stroke or a head injury)

Brain problems that occur before birth (congenital brain defects)

Brain injury that occurs to the baby during labor or childbirth

Phenylketonuria (PKU), which can cause seizures in infants

Brain tumor or bleeding in the brain

Dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease

High fever

Illnesses that cause the brain to deteriorate

Infections that affect the brain, such as meningitis, encephalitis, neurosyphilis, or AIDS

Kidney or liver failure

Use of illegal street drugs, such as cocaine or amphetamines

Withdrawal from alcohol after drinking a lot on most days

Withdrawal from certain drugs, including some painkillers and sleeping pills

This includes head injury, abnormal brain development, lack of oxygen during birth, brain tumors, strokes, diseases of the heart and it’s blood supply, toxins such as lead poisoning, infections, diseases of the brain and nerves, and disorders of the body’s chemistry.

Epilepsy is also associated with other disorders like autism, TB, and cerebral palsy.

This is one reason why the disease is often difficult to diagnose and why, for some, it remains such a confusing disease.

In short (not to sound like a cliche), things are seldom what they seem. And a good diagnostion is worth his/her weight in gold.

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  1. Hey Phylis, just want to add Meninginomia as one of the brain tumors. Unlike the deadly ones, this does not invade the brain. They normally start on a bone part and then very slowly expand, pushing on the brain. If this tumor is located in a good place, it can get quite big and it can make new arteries for itself by tapping off the existing arteries. Mine grew to the size of a baseball before it started to give me seizures. And not knowing at the time anything about seizures, i thought i was going to die. Then one day a grand mal happened which shock my world upside down. I described it in the er as a faint spell. That’s when they found it and told me i needed surgery ASAP, otherwise i could go into a coma at anytime.

    The other day i was at my moms house and during the night i hit my hand on the wall and i could feel my seizure starting. Being dark, i had to first turn on the lights and this time the seizure started quick and my arm was starting to flail as i was getting my emergency meds out to put under my tongue. I got one and the other fell somewhere. So i started holding my flailing hand and then i saw the med drop to the floor, so i let go of my flailing arm and picked it up and put it in my mouth. At this time i couldn’t control the flailing hand and it went off, put me in an arm bending position with my face on the bed and it was hard to breath, i was screaming but my voice was being garbled and the pain was getting to me, so much i just let go and passed out. Woke up on the toilet, mouth was bloody from biting my tongue. My calve felt like it had been run over and had shoulder pain.

    For me, lots of movement during a seizure is not a good thing, I find it speeds up the seizure.

    I normally don’t have them so early in the morning, before the sun comes out, but since i’ts happened, i need to get a night light so i don’t have to exert energy turning on the lights.


    Comment by Zolt — September 11, 2018 @ 12:37 PM

    • OMG. I’m so sorry Zolt.

      Aren’t your usual seizures limited to nocturnal seizures?

      P.S. Thanks for the Meninginomia brain tumor information and education.

      A friend of mine had this, but it was rapid in spreading.

      She started having seizures and went straight into surgery.

      Sally was assured she be back to work — as a psychological therapist — in six weeks.

      She emerged from the surgery with brain injuries, (from a nick in her executive function area) and was non functional for years.

      Happily after (somewhat helpful) physical therapy and sheer grit and determination, most of her executive functions are back.

      But she still suffers from PTSD.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 11, 2018 @ 1:58 PM

      • My seizures normally happen 1/2hr to 45min after i wake up. My last 30 out of 35 have been like this since i’ve been on Gabapentin. Normally the first hour i’m awake, i won’t take my medicine, during this hr is when they occur. Although since i’ve retired, seizures have been rare, not the every month as i was used to, but like once every 4 or 8 months. My last seizure was on Mothers day and the one before that was the September before that.
        Normally i catch them quick enough to get the Ativan pills in my mouth and hold onto my arm in a fetal sitting position whereby the want to flail in my arm reduces to the point where the seizure gets dismissed. My arm afterwards feels like a wet noodle, but it slowly comes back to life.

        Sounds like Sallies tumor was a large one too, since they did the surgery right away. It’s hard to tell how fast they grow, they can be dormant for a long time and they can all of a sudden start to grow. I heard on ave it’s about 3mm growth per yr.

        I was back at work like 8 weeks after surgery. I wanted to retire then, but didn’t have the money, but told myself i’d retire in 5 yrs. It took 10, but finally did it. Just had the 12 yr anniversary of the tumor remove last month.


        Comment by Zolt — September 11, 2018 @ 2:35 PM

      • Why don’t you take your meds the first thing when you awake, since that’s when your seizes normally happen?


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 11, 2018 @ 3:02 PM

  2. Hi Phylis…
    Have you ever heard of someone with Lyme Disease, (w/Lyme Encephalitis) from a few years back, ever being a contributor to Epilepsy?

    and/or…have you ever heard of someone with “Severe Hypoperfusion” in their brain as being a contributor to Epilepsy?

    I love your articles!!

    Thank you, Gary

    PS: the someone is me… 🙂


    Comment by Gary Woodward — September 11, 2018 @ 2:04 PM

  3. “Why don’t you take your meds the first thing when you awake, since that’s when your seizes normally happen?” Because this is one way i can control when they happen, otherwise they would happen anytime during the day and normally they would happen at the worst time.


    Comment by Zolt — September 11, 2018 @ 3:49 PM

  4. Ok. That makes sense.

    But I should have remembered — everything you do makes sense! 🙂


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 11, 2018 @ 3:54 PM

  5. Has anyone tried removing mercury amalgam fillings and noticed an improvement, ie fewer and eventually over a period of years, rare seizure events? I have…


    Comment by Andy — September 12, 2018 @ 10:24 AM

    • A while ago, there was a post from a dentist, linking mercury fillings with seizures.

      That’s probably why you notice the difference.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 12, 2018 @ 10:43 AM

  6. Any information on Autonomic dysfunction /Storm, dysautonomia. Told by neurologist it’s Brain storms?
    Was told that Autonomic Testing to rule out Epilepsy.
    My family member has been having some type of seizure like episodes for 3 years. Generally happens while asleep, and wakes up. Given Ativan in the ER.


    Comment by Birdie — September 17, 2018 @ 9:02 PM

    • Autonomic symptoms frequently occur during epileptic seizures either as an accompaniment to other seizure symptoms or as the predominant seizure manifestation.

      Autonomic symptoms indicating a seizure onset in the non-dominant hemisphere include vomiting and retching, spitting automatisms and ictal urinary urge.

      Partial and generalized seizures often affect autonomic function during seizures as well as during the interictal and postictal periods.

      Autonomic dysfunction during or after seizures may cause cardiac and pulmonary changes.

      I hope this helps, Birdie.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 18, 2018 @ 10:58 AM

    • One thing you might also consider is Nocturnal Seizures.

      According to an article in Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, if more than 90 percent of your seizures occur while sleeping, you are said to have sleep seizures.

      The article also notes that an estimated 7.5 percent to 45 percent of people who have epilepsy have some form of sleep seizures.

      Since seizures occur in sleep during the night, it’s often hard to diagnose them, except for unusual movements at night, confusion upon awakening, bed wetting or falling out of bed.

      However, these symptoms are also a kind of parasomnia — an umbrella term for a group of sleep disorders that include night terrors, sleepwalking, teeth grinding, and restless leg syndrome.

      It’s believed that sleep seizures are triggered by changes in the electrical activity in your brain during the stages of sleeping and awakening. Most nocturnal seizures occur in stage 1 and stage 2, which are the stages of lighter sleep.

      And nocturnal awakenings are sometimes confused with insomnia. Epilepsy patients are often unaware of the seizures that occur while they sleep.

      They may suffer for years from daytime fatigue and concentration problems without ever knowing why.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — September 18, 2018 @ 11:01 AM

  7. Thank you for all your information. Waiting for requisition for Autonomic Testing.
    Any and All Information is Greatly Appreciated!


    Comment by Birdie — September 25, 2018 @ 1:50 PM

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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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