Aura 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.
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.
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.
A sensory aura involves a sensation without an objective clinical sign. Sensory aura include the following types:
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:
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.
Comment below to share your experience with auras.
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.