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Emily’s Perspective: On Auras

105626590Aura is the term used to describe symptoms that may occur before a seizure, but it is not uncommon for a seizure to not follow. You may have an aura from several seconds up to 60 minutes before a seizure. They vary massively for each individual, some will experience seeing bright lights, distortions in the size or shape of objects and hallucinations. I have met people who experience strange smells like metal or smoke, one lady told me she would smell strong coffee or toast before her seizure occurred.

My Aura

About 2 years ago I could wake up and know that I was going to have a seizure that day. I don’t know if this was because I was having seizures everyday so I just had a gut feeling, or whether it was an Aura from the start.

I would get a feeling of fear; it was overwhelming and sometimes unbearable. I didn’t want to leave the house and getting to work felt impossible, I was crippled with Anxiety. Right before my seizure I would feel disconnected. It would feel as if I were watching my life from outside my body, and that I was not really there. At one point I could not even use the toilet because I felt like I wasn’t really there and it looked so big that I was afraid I would fall in and not be able to escape. I would often repeatedly do something with no control, like clapping my hands together, wipe them down or make chewing motions. It was odd as I could often interact with my family or colleagues, but I would feel confused.

Since I’ve been taking a stable dose of Keppra and Lamotrigine I no longer experience an aura and my seizures are controlled, but sometimes I feel unsafe as I do not know if a seizure is going to occur or not.

Your Auras

I asked readers online what Auras they experience, or what their children experience. I found the most common symptom was a visual aura. These are characterised by visual hallucinations such as flashing or flickering lights, spots or other shapes. The second most common experience was a Cephalic aura. These are characterised by a sensation in the head such as light-headedness or headaches, and a feeling of disconnection.

I’ve even heard from readers who said, “I get a deep sense of a very strong smell I believe to be sulfur like. Not that I have smelled sulfur but that’s what comes to mind. Is this normal or what have you read and what do you understand about the aura?” This is known as an olfactory hallucination. These make you detect smells that aren’t really present in your environment.
I have met people who smell foul odours, and others smell pleasant ones such as coffee.

What Auras do you experience?

I am interested in hearing about your Aura experiences.

Sensory aura

A sensory aura involves a sensation without an objective clinical sign. Sensory aura include the following types:

  • Somatosensory
  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Olfactory
  • Gustatory
  • Epigastric
  • Cephalic

Experiential aura

An experiential aura involves affective, mnemonic (memory) or perceptual subjective phenomena including depersonalization and hallucinatory events; these may appear alone or in combination. Experiential aura include the following types:

  • Affective
  • Mnemonic
  • Hallucinatory
  • Illusory

How can auras help?

Auras are not only helpful to individuals with Epilepsy, allowing them to get to a safe place in preparation for a seizure, they can also help healthcare professionals pinpoint the area of the brain where the seizure is originating. Since auras occur prior to a seizure, it’s thought that they may play a protective role allowing people to get to a safe place before the rest of their seizure occurs.

Your turn

Comment below to share your experience with auras.

Follow Emily Lawrence (Nee Donoghue):

Contributing Writer

25 yr old monthly columnist on Living Well with Epilepsy. Full time worker of NHS England. Emily's Perspective is a snapshot of what life is like living with Epilepsy. I was diagnosed with Epilepsy at the age of 10. Based in UK.

5 Responses

  1. Lainie
    | Reply

    The Aura for me was a bit emabarassing really and not quite sure where it falls in to with these categories but I always needed to go and have a poo before a seizure. After all the other aura’s where I felt this disconnection and felt like I was watching myself in a movie, this toilet visit would be my ultimate knowing that there was no turning back from that point. Good article and thanks for this

  2. Mary
    | Reply

    Lainie, me too. The only difference is I always need to use the washroom after and not before. I also have an “eerie” yet very comfortable feeling like ” Hey there you are old friend!”. This is a great feeling which makes you feel like you almost want to follow it and see where it takes you, until you realize what this feeling is all about. At this point the feeling turns from pleasure to extreme terror within seconds. I hear a song (the same song) yet I do not know what it is. Strange, I know. I get a very strong deja vu type feeling and feel light headed and a little nauseous. At this point I know I need to sit or lay down before I fall down. I’m SO grateful I have auras.

  3. Alison Zetterquist
    | Reply

    Hi Emily, My aura doesn’t exactly fit any one of your categories. That said, I do get disconnected and confused with a floating feeling. The most noticeable hallmark, though, is my being unable to find words. The time it takes for me to say three words in a sentence will stretch out on and on. When I recognize that I’m having an aura, either I’ll do something to stop myself from having a seizure (yes, I’m one of the lucky ones who can do so with pills) or I’ll be so far gone that I’ll just accept that I’m going to have a seizure, putting myself in as few situations as possible in which I need to speak. Then, I wake up on a stretcher.

  4. Sara L. Blacher
    | Reply

    Have a new seizure with no aura. Feel very detached eyes roll back in my head and out I go. Incontinent and wale up very tired,nausea,vomiting. Felling.like I can look over my body and sense that I can not communicate verbally. Some times can last a day after wards. Takes a while to feel normal to some extent. Hss this happend to anyone else?

  5. Grace
    | Reply

    Hi, I am not diagnosed with epilepsy or any neurological condition, however I have been experiencing auras more frequently in the last couple of years. I’m 34. I’m disinclined to tell anyone as Im concerned it’s nothing and I’m being dramatic! My auras are mnemonic and I get an overwhelming sense of Deja vu then feel detached and confused. At the same time I get a strong feeling of nausea in the pit of my stomach, it feels hot and then rises up to my chest. I’m aware while it happens, although confused, and a seizure doesn’t follow. I wondered what your thoughts were? I know everyone gets Deja vu but I’ve never heard of them being this strong resulting in detachment and confusion and also the nausea is concerning me. X

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