Syncope, also known as fainting, simply occurs when there is an insufficient supply of blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Convulsive syncope occurs when ‘fainting’ is paired with movement (or “motor activity”).
On the other hand, a seizure is caused by a sudden, electrical disruption in the brain. It is commonly diagnosed as epilepsy when it becomes more frequent and needs to be managed by medications
To the untrained eye, both a seizure and a syncopal event could appear similar as they could be recognized by someone falling to the ground or slumping on a chair while seated. This similarity in outward symptoms poses a problem to even well-trained physicians, especially when such an event is the patient’s first experience.
Studies have shown that although an estimated 1% of the population has epilepsy, about 25% of those patients diagnosed show no clinical evidence of epilepsy. Other research carried out by various experts have reported misdiagnosis rates ranging from 4.6% to 30%. Despite the wide range of these rates, it still holds significance because the number one goal is to preserve life and that goal would be misguided if the wrong patients were being managed with anti-epileptic medications (AEDs).
Although seizures and syncope can both be mistaken for a number of issues that could be associated with psychological and sleep disorders, for the purpose of this article we will be focusing on the more common differential diagnoses ‘convulsive syncope vs seizure’.
Here are 4 easy ways to differentiate between the two…