What Are Seizure Clusters?

Nearly half of all people with epilepsy can experience seizure clusters. Seizure clusters is the name for multiple seizures in one day. They may also be called acute repetitive seizures, serial seizures, or seizure flurries. If they are not managed, seizure clusters can progress to more dangerous conditions.1,2

What are seizure clusters?

There is no one definition of seizure clusters. In general, it is a term for several seizures within a short period of time, with full recovery between them. It also means having more seizures than normal within a certain time. Most sources typically qualify more than 3 seizures within 24 hours as a seizure cluster.2

Seizure clusters can be a sign of more serious epilepsy. People with seizure clusters are more likely to be hospitalized. They struggle more with controlling seizures over time. Seizure clusters can also decrease quality of life.2

If they are not managed, seizure clusters may progress to status epilepticus. In status epilepticus, seizures last more than 5 minutes. It is also possible that seizures may happen so close together that a person stays unconscious between them. Status epilepticus is a serious and life-threatening condition.3,4

Who has seizure clusters?

We do not know exactly why some people have seizure clusters. But there are some factors that make people more likely to have them. Risk factors for seizure clusters include:1,2

  • Having an uncontrolled seizure disorder
  • Having frequent seizures
  • Being younger when your seizures started
  • Stopping anti-seizure medication abruptly
  • History of head trauma
  • History of central nervous system infection

What are seizure clusters symptoms?

Seizures during a seizure cluster are like your isolated seizures. With seizure clusters, you may feel normal between seizures. But you may still have additional seizures. Symptoms during a seizure may include:2,3,5

These are not all the possible symptoms of seizures, and they can look different for everyone.5

Seizure clusters treatment

There are 2 main ways to treat seizure clusters: anti-seizure medications and rescue medicines. Anti-seizure medications are taken regularly ahead of seizures. They work to prevent the seizures ahead of time. Rescue medicines are fast-acting. They are taken in response to a seizure to stop it.1-3,6

Not all seizure rescue medicines have been shown to treat seizure clusters. The rescue medicines approved for treating seizure clusters are all a type of drug called benzodiazepine. It can be given as a nasal spray or rectal gel. They work by attaching to certain receptors in the brain. The medicine activates the receptors, which triggers events to calm brain activity.6

Have a seizure action plan

If you have seizure clusters, it can help to develop a seizure action plan with your doctors. This plan will help you and the people around you know how to react if you have a seizure.

Having a plan can help keep you from having to go to the emergency room. However, do not hesitate to get emergency help for concerning seizures, especially if they last longer than 5 minutes.2-4

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