High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a prevalent health condition that affects millions worldwide, leading to serious potential complications like heart disease.
It’s commonly known for its impact on cardiovascular health, but can high blood pressure cause seizures?
In this article, we will talk about the medical science behind high blood pressure and its potential link to seizures. In our discussion, we will take a close look at how high blood pressure can affect brain health. We will also explore the evidence that suggests a potential connection with seizures.
Seizures are neurological conditions where the brain experiences a sudden surge of electrical activity. This can cause a lot of symptoms, from short periods of unconsciousness or minimal brain function disruption to vigorous shaking and loss of control.
If you have two or more seizures, at least 24 hours apart, and there’s no known cause, that’s when it’s considered to be epilepsy.
Seizures come in various forms. One is generalized seizures which affect the entire brain, while focal or partial seizures target specific areas.
Seizure types differ based on where they start in the brain and how much they spread. Most seizures last between 30 seconds and two minutes. If a seizure lasts longer than five minutes, it’s a medical emergency.
Seizures mostly occur after a stroke or a head injury. They can also be caused by an infection like meningitis or another illness. Often, though, we don’t know why they happen.
Note that seizures are not a disease in themselves, but rather symptomatic of various underlying conditions the main is epilepsy and others are, high fever, brain tumor, or certain metabolic disorders.
Types of Seizures
Seizures can be broadly categorized into 2 main types: Focal seizures and Generalized seizures.
Focal seizures which we also call partial seizures. They occur in a specific area of the brain. They can be classified as either Simple Focal Seizures or Complex Focal Seizures.
- Simple Focal Seizures: These seizures may lead to muscle twitches or alterations in perception, such as experiencing an unusual taste or smell. They also may change the way things look, feel, or sound. But the seizures don’t make you lose consciousness.
- Complex Focal Seizures: These seizures can cause a loss of awareness or a partial loss of consciousness that feels like being in a dream. People experiencing these types of seizures may appear awake but they stare blankly and do not respond to their surroundings. It may also lead to performing repetitive movements like hand rubbing, chewing, or swallowing.
Generalized seizures involve all areas of the brain. There are 6 types of generalized seizures that exist.
1. Absence seizures: Previously known as petit mal seizures, these often occur in children. During absence seizures, a person may appear to be lost in thought, staring into space, or making small body movements like blinking their eyes or smacking their lips. They typically last 5 to 10 seconds and can occur multiple times a day. They may happen in clusters and briefly affect awareness.
2. Tonic seizures: These seizures cause stiffening of your muscles and may lead to you falling to the ground. These seizures usually impact the muscles in the back, arms and legs.
3. Atonic seizures: Also known as drop seizures, these cause a loss of muscle control. This can make you suddenly collapse or fall down.
4. Clonic seizures: These seizures are characterized by repeated or rhythmic, jerking muscle movements. These seizures usually impact the neck, face, and arms on both sides of the body.
5. Myoclonic seizures: These seizures usually manifest as sudden, fleeting jerks or twitches in your arms and legs. Fortunately, they generally do not result in a loss of consciousness.
6. Tonic-clonic seizures: Formerly referred to as grand mal seizures, these are the most striking type of epileptic seizure, often resulting in a sudden loss of consciousness. In these seizures, your body stiffens and shakes, and sometimes lose bladder control or bite your tongue. They can last for a few minutes. Tonic-clonic seizures can also start as focal seizures and then spread to affect the entire brain.
Stages of Seizures
Seizures typically proceed through three stages: the aura, the ictus, and the postictal period.
The aura stage is also known as the prodrome. It is the first phase of a seizure and it’s not always present in every case. Auras are seizures where the person remains conscious throughout.
During this stage, people may experience a variety of sensations, like unusual smells, tastes, or feelings. This includes changes in vision or hearing or a sudden sense of fear, anxiety, or deja vu.
These signs can work as a warning system which allows the person experiencing the seizure to seek safety or alert others before the seizure progresses.
The ictus is the main event. This is the stage during which the physical manifestations of a seizure are most obvious. Depending on the type of seizure, symptoms during the ictus can range from mild—like a brief lapse in attention or muscle twitches—to severe, including loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions.
The postictal period is the recovery phase following the ictus. During this stage, patient may experience confusion, fatigue, headache, or even temporary amnesia.
The length of the postictal period can vary, with some people returning to normal almost immediately and others requiring hours of rest.
Also Read: Can You Take Tylenol with Excedrin Migraine?
High Blood Pressure: An Overview
High blood pressure is also known as hypertension. It is a common health condition where the long-term force exerted by blood against artery walls. When this force becomes consistently high, it can cause various health issues, including heart disease.
Hypertension often develops over many years and it can be detected only through regular blood pressure readings. The scary point of hypertension is that it usually has no signs or symptoms.
Without detection, the damage to the heart and blood vessels continues to worsen causing serious health issues like heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease.
The blood pressure reading that is more than 130/80 mm Hg or higher is considered high.
However, you can effectively manage it by making positive lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthy eating plan, engaging in regular exercise, practicing moderation in alcohol consumption, and quitting smoking. Your health is in your hands!
Can high blood pressure cause Seizures?
Yes, high blood pressure can cause Seizures but in very rare cases. Severe hypertension can cause seizures, especially when it develops into hypertensive encephalopathy (a condition caused by very high blood pressure that causes brain swelling).
Hypertensive encephalopathy is a medical emergency that can cause a lot of neurological symptoms. These may include:
- Feeling sick
- Throwing up
- Blurry vision
- Dangerous brain swelling in severe cases
Seizures are not a common symptom of high blood pressure. However, regular monitoring and effective management of blood pressure are crucial to prevent it from reaching severe levels.
Symptoms and causes of Seizures
What are the symptoms of a Seizure while having high blood pressure?
Seizure symptoms can vary widely for people with high blood pressure, depending on the type of seizure and overall health.
Some common symptoms may include:
- Sudden, rapid eye movements
- Loss of consciousness or awareness
- Uncontrollable muscle spasms
- Confusion post-seizure
More severe symptoms can comprise intense headaches, nausea, and in some instances, blurred vision.
What are the causes of Seizures?
Seizures can be caused by various factors. Mostly, they’re a symptom of problems in the brain.
The most common cause of seizures is epilepsy. It’s a condition affecting the nervous system that causes repeated seizures. Here are some other conditions that can also cause seizures, like:
- Brain injury or infection: Traumatic brain injuries, meningitis, or viral encephalitis can lead to seizures.
- Stroke: A stroke happens when the flow of blood to the brain is interrupted, causing brain damage and potentially triggering seizures.
- Brain tumors or cysts: Abnormal growths in the brain can also cause seizures.
- Genetic disorders: Certain genetic disorders, like tuberous sclerosis or neurofibromatosis, can cause seizures.
- Metabolic disorders: Conditions that affect the body’s metabolism, like phenylketonuria, can cause seizures.
- Drugs and alcohol: The misuse of drugs or alcohol, particularly when quitting after a period of heavy use, can cause seizures.
Seizures and Blood Pressure
The connection between Seizures and high blood pressure/low blood pressure
The link between seizures and blood pressure is not fully understood, but some aspects are clear.
High blood pressure, especially when it reaches severe levels. This can cause brain swelling known as hypertensive encephalopathy which can trigger seizures.
In contrast, having low blood pressure may not give the brain enough oxygen which could possibly cause a seizure in some people.
However, these are rare cases, other factors are at play in the onset of seizures. Regularly monitoring and managing blood pressure is important for overall health and preventing seizures.
Why does high blood pressure increase the risk of seizures?
High blood pressure increases the risk of seizures because it can cause hypertensive encephalopathy. This is a condition where the brain swells due to extremely high blood pressure. This brain swelling can disrupt the normal functioning of the brain and trigger seizures.
Do seizures happen often with high blood pressure?
No, seizures are not a common occurrence with high blood pressure. They mostly happen when hypertension is at its extreme levels and cause conditions like hypertensive encephalopathy. Therefore, while it’s possible, it’s not a frequent complication of high blood pressure.
Which types of seizures can be linked to high blood pressure?
All types of seizures can occur due to high blood pressure, but tonic-clonic seizures and nonconvulsive status epilepticus might be more commonly associated with conditions like hypertensive encephalopathy. However, this link is not fully established and further research is needed.
How does high blood pressure impact brain function?
Uncontrolled high blood pressure can seriously affect brain function. It puts pressure on your blood vessels and damages them. These blood vessels are the ones that supply blood to your brain. So, it can mess with your cognitive functions and memory.
It can also increase the risk of stroke, which can cause temporary or permanent brain damage. In some severe cases, high blood pressure can cause a dangerous condition called hypertensive encephalopathy.
How to manage high blood pressure to reduce seizure risk?
If you want to manage high blood pressure, you’ll need a mix of lifestyle changes and medication:
- Lifestyle Changes: Adopting a healthy lifestyle is the first line of defense against high blood pressure. Some strategies include:
- Regular physical activity
- A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy
- Limiting alcohol and caffeine intake
- Avoiding tobacco use
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Medication: If lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough, your doctor might recommend one or more of the following medications as per your condition:
- ACE inhibitors
- Calcium channel blockers
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)
Remember, it’s important to listen to your doctor and take your prescribed medication as directed to manage your high blood pressure effectively.
Can high blood pressure medication cause seizures?
Some high blood pressure medications, especially when taken too much or together with certain other drugs, can increase the risk of seizures. However, this is not common and usually occurs only in cases of improper usage or individual sensitivity.
While high blood pressure doesn’t directly cause seizures, it can increase the chances of having them, especially for people who are already prone to seizures. Taking care of high blood pressure is important to keep your brain healthy and lower the chances of seizures. This involves making lifestyle changes and taking prescribed medications as directed. If you have concerns about high blood pressure and its potential impact on your health, consult with your doctor for personalized guidance and support.
People Also Ask
Can high blood pressure cause seizures in dogs?
Yes, high blood pressure can indeed cause seizures in dogs, just like in humans. In severe cases, it can cause hypertensive encephalopathy, a dangerous condition with brain swelling and seizures.
How high does your blood pressure have to be to have a seizure?
There isn’t a specific blood pressure threshold that triggers a seizure. However, extremely high blood pressure, like a systolic pressure above 180 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure above 120 mm Hg, can cause hypertensive encephalopathy, a potential cause of seizures.
Can high blood pressure cause a grand mal seizure?
Yes, high blood pressure can cause a grand mal seizure, which is now commonly referred to as a tonic-clonic seizure. However, this is likely to occur only in extreme cases where high blood pressure leads to conditions like hypertensive encephalopathy.
- American Heart Association. (2021). High Blood Pressure. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure
- Epilepsy Foundation. (n.d.). Seizures and Blood Pressure. Retrieved from https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/triggers-seizures/blood-pressure
- Mayo Clinic Staff. Seizures – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seizure/symptoms-causes/syc-20365711
- Rakel, R. E., & Rakel, D. P. (2015). Seizures In: Textbook of Family Medicine (9th ed.). Elsevier. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/seizures
- Cardiol J. 2021; 28(2): 330–335. Published online 2021 Apr 13. Epilepsy and hypertension https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8078946/.
- Epilepsia 1996 Aug;37(8):736-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1157.1996.tb00644.x. Severe, uncontrolled hypertension and adult-onset seizures medical reviewed by Steven C. Schachter, MD https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8764811/