Rethinking Seizure Care Blog

What is the Postictal Phase of a Seizure?

Posted by RSC Diagnostics on Mar 1, 2017


Experiencing a seizure can be an incredibly scary ordeal. One of the most perplexing parts of a seizure one can experience actually happens right after the seizure has concluded. Known as the postictal phase of a seizure, this is the stage where a person’s body begins to recover from their seizure. It occurs between the end of their seizure and their return to their baseline condition. Recovery time during this period may vary. Some patients can recover from their seizure immediately, while others may take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

Phases of seizures

Commonly, there are three stages of seizures: the aura, ictus, and postictal state. In the aura stage, a person begins to notice changes in his or her smell, taste, eyesight, hearing and emotional state. The second stage, known as the ictus stage, is where the person experiences the seizure itself, which can vary based on the type of seizure and region of the brain affected. The third stage that follows the ictus is the postictal stage, and happens during the person’s recovery from the seizure.

Postictal Stage Symptoms

The symptoms a person suffering from a seizure can expect during the postictal phase can range widely due to the various kinds of epileptic seizures and the parts of the brain that their seizure impacted. However, the postictal phase generally impairs the patient’s cognition and awareness, showing signs of both mental and physical deficiency.

When the body experiences a seizure, different body systems can be affected. Read about them in our blog, "4 Body Systems Affected by Epilepsy".

Mental symptoms:  

  • Difficulty or inability to respond to questions
  • Sleepiness/drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty or inability to talk or write
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Depression/sadness
  • Feeling frightened or anxious
  • Frustration/embarrassment

Physical symptoms:

  • Injuries derived from the seizure like bruising, cuts, head trauma, or broken bones
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Nausea/upset stomachs
  • Dehydration
  • Feeling of weakness/faintness
  • Sudden urge to use the bathroom/loss of bowel or bladder control

While the underlying causes of the postictal phase of a seizure are still unknown, the stage is associated with varying levels of cognition and physical impairment as the body begins its recovery from the seizure. Lasting anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, those coming out of a seizure should pay attention to their changes in behavior/physical and mental impairment before returning to their normal activities.


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Topics: Seizure Symptoms