Your ANS allows you to tell your heart to beat or lungs to breathe. Your brain is in charge of the ANS. The body is affected when you have a seizure.

A brainstorm is a seizure where electrical activity in the brain is disturbed. Changes in brain function can lead to cardiac arrhythmias. These are abnormal heart rhythms that could be fatal.

“convulsive syncope is a seizure-like activity that can be caused by cardiac arrhythmia. This isn’t the same as a seizure, but it can be hard to tell apart.”

You can learn more about the connections between seizures, convulsive syncope, and abnormal heart rhythms.

Convulsive syncope and seizures are two conditions that can cause similar symptoms, most commonly loss of consciousness (passing out). While the two may look similar, they have different causes.

There is excessive nervous system activity that causes a seizure. A lack of oxygen to the brain is what causes syncope.

It is hard to identify the exact cause of either condition because they seem so similar.

Studies found that around 20 to 30 percent of people who experienced syncope episodes were misdiagnosed as having epilepsy. Cardiovascular syncope was the most common misdiagnosed underlying condition.

The 10/20 rule

It can be hard to distinguish between convulsive syncope and a seizure. In both events, the body may jerk uncontrollably. Doctors use medical history and testing to confirm a diagnosis, but there could be an easy way for you to tell them apart.

A 2018 study recommends the 10/20 rule. Fewer than 10 jerks likely means that syncope is occurring. If there are more than 20 jerks, it’s more than likely a seizure.

“Doctors don’t know why seizures can cause arrhythmias. There are a number of possible reasons. These include:”

A seizure could cause these factors to contribute to arrhythmia.

In a study of 1.4 million people with epilepsy, about 1 in 4 had a cardiac arrhythmia. The most common arrhythmia was atrial fibrillation (AFib). AFib causes the top part of the heart (the atrium) to fibrillate or quiver before pumping to the bottom part of the heart.

Other arrhythmia types that occur with scurvy include:

Cardiac arrhythmias can cause convulsive syncope, which is a seizure-like episode. Cardiac syncope is often due to structural changes or mechanical issues in the heart.

Most cases of arrhythmia that lead to cardiac syncope involve The ventricular Tachycardia is a type of Tachycardia. (v-tach). V-tach is an arrhythmia in which your heart beats very quickly. Sustained v-tach can have very serious complications.

According to a 2016 review, syncope due to v-tach is most common in men older than 35 years. A 2020 case study reports that syncope due to v-tach may resemble tonic-clonic seizure activity.

You may think of a seizure as shaking. There are many different seizure types. The symptoms are dependent on the underlying type.

Examples of different seizure types and their symptoms include:

  • Absence: rapid blinking, staring off into space, unable to capture the person’s attention
  • Focal: twitching, confusion; and changes in sensation, such as taste or smell
  • Tonic-clonic: muscle spasms or jerking, falling to the ground, losing consciousness, significant fatigue after the seizure

If a seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes or a person injures themself while having the seizure, call emergency services and help the person seek emergency medical attention.

What happens to the heart during a seizure?

The heart can respond in many different ways after a seizure. Different parts of the brain are affected by seizures. Some can affect the parts of your brain that control your heart rhythm.

In about 80 percent of cases with seizures where the heart is affected, the heart speeds up after a seizure. This heart rhythm is known as sinus tachycardia and can cause heart palpitations.

In other instances, a person can experience heart rate changes that even include systole or the absence of the heart beating entirely.

“Cardiac arrhythmias don’t usually have symptoms. You might feel like your heart is racing in the v-tach case. You have to see your doctor to know for sure.”

Doctors diagnose cardiac arrhythmias by using an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). This painless, noninvasive test allows a doctor to measure your heart rhythm.

Sometimes, your doctor may recommend wearing a monitor to check your heart’s rhythm. If you have a seizure, the heart monitor can capture your heart’s rhythm and allow your doctor to determine if there’s an arrhythmia.

Doctors are still learning about seizures and cardiac arrhythmias. In some instances, cardiac arrhythmia can take place before a seizure. Researchers have therefore suggested that arrhythmias can be a precursor or sign that a seizure may be about to occur.

It is difficult to say if arrhythmias increase your risk of seizures. A person would have to wear a heart monitor before and after a seizure to identify the connection. It is difficult to predict when a seizure will occur.

Talk to your doctor about how to minimize your risks.

Your outlook will be dependent on the type of cardiac arrhythmia you have. Cardiac arrhythmia can lead to ictal asystole, where the heart can stop. Ictal asystole can be a cause of sudden death in people with SUDEP.

If a doctor has identified that you have a cardiac arrhythmia after a seizure, they may recommend treatments such as an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). An ICD can “shock” the heart back into rhythm if an arrhythmia occurs.

The following are some questions that people ask.

Can atrial fibrillation cause a seizure?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most commonly treated cardiac arrhythmia in the United States.

Some case reports indicate that a person can experience atrial fibrillation after a seizure. However, there are no reports that indicate that AFib causes a seizure.

AFib can, however, increase your risk of stroke.

What’s my risk of developing a cardiac arrhythmia if I have epilepsy?

In the study of 1.4 million people with epilepsy, 1 in 4 experienced some type of cardiac arrhythmia, with atrial fibrillation being the most common. Some people may have an arrhythmia without it being related to their epilepsy.

Can seizure medication cause arrhythmia?

Some seizure medications can have side effects known as cardiotoxicity. This means the medications can potentially damage the heart. Examples of known side effects include:

  • pregabalin: increased risk of heart failure
  • oxcarbazepine: induce ventricular fibrillation, a severe and life threatening arrhythmia
  • carbamazepine: increased risk of AV block or bradycardia (slow heart rate)

“These are potential side effects, but they don’t happen to everyone.”

Cardiac arrhythmias can occur after a seizure. Sometimes they can resolve. At other times, the cardiac arrhythmia can cause life threatening effects.

Cardiac arrhythmias can also cause convulsive syncope, which can look like a seizure. The 10/20 rule can help you distinguish between the two. Most arrhythmias don’t cause convulsive syncope, but The ventricular Tachycardia is a type of Tachycardia. might.

If you have concerns about seizures, convulsive syncope, or cardiac arrhythmia, talk to your doctor.