For many people with epilepsy, headaches came righ along for the ride. Headaches after seizure are very common, but the good news is that they can often be minimized or stopped.
Headaches that go along with Epilepsy
Headaches that go along with seizures don’t always come after the seizure. For some, a headache may be a warning sign that an attack is on its way. These are sometimes called pre-ictal headaches. Others have a headache which is actually a part of the seizure (an icatl headache). These are quite rare. The headache may even be the only symptom, in which case you’ll need an EEG to confirm that it’s a seizure.
But we’re talking about the most common type of headache with seizure, headaches after seizure, or a postictal headache. About 45% of people with epilepsy get these, so you’re not alone! Most commonly headaches will happen after tonic-clonic seizures (formerly known as grand mal or gran mal seizures), but you may get a headache after other types of seizure as well.
Step 1: Identify the Headache
The curious thing is that these headaches are different in each person. It’s likely the case that different people are predisposed to various kinds of headache. For example, if you have migraine disease already, you may end up with a migraine attack with headache.
Treating headaches after seizure will very much depend on what type of headache you have. You’ll need to watch symptoms carefully, perhaps over some time, and talk to a doctor who knows your medical history.
Pay attention to things like: how long does the headache last (typically postical headaches last from 6 to 24 hours)? Is it throbbing, right, piercing, etc? Where is the headache? Is it accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea, sensitivity to light or sound, dizziness, fatigue, etc? This can be tricky, of course, because you’re trying to differential between what is part of the seizure, and what only comes along with the headache (if there are times you get a headache, and times you don’t).
Treating Headaches after Seizure
Now that you and your doctor have a theory about the type of headache you’re getting, you can move on to treatment. There are two kinds of treatment your doctor may recommend.
First, abortive – that is, you take something for the headache when you get it. Common over the counter medications might be used, like aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil). Or your doctor may suggest a prescription that may work better for you. If you’re getting migraine attacks, there are many abortives commonly used, such as triptans (ie Imitrex, Zomig)
Your doctor may also suggest preventative or prophylactic treatment. That is, preventing the headaches from happening. This is especially used if you are getting a lot of headaches after seizure.
Sometimes seizure medication is also a treatment for headache or migraine. Depakote (valproate semisodium) is one example. There are various other drugs and supplements that are very effective especially for headache from migraine.
Stopping the headaches
The headaches are related to the seizures, of course, but you may need to treat seizures and headaches as two seperate conditions. Still, it’s important that your doctor knows about both conditions, and your medical history, so that she knows best what treatment to suggest.
The bottom line is, headaches after seizure are not something you automatically have to live with. There is a wide range of treatment available. These headaches are worth fighting.