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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Chief Justice John Roberts Has Seizure

10 Questions and Answers on Roberts' Seizure

Why might there have been such a long lag time between Roberts' seizures?

I have had patients who had one seizure remotely and then another a very long time afterwards. However, if you question them closely, a subportion of those will actually report that they've been having funny events that they did not identify as seizures.

For the average person walking around who's not a medical person, a seizure means one thing and one thing only and that is fall to the ground, foam at the mouth, shake all over, which we call a generalized tonic-clonic convulsion. And that's the only thing in their head that's a seizure. So anything else that happens that's unusual, they won't count as a seizure.

But seizures can take all different forms. They can be as small as a funny, fleeting feeling that just goes through your head that you don't know why it's there, or a funny flip-flopping in your stomach followed by 30 seconds of being a little dazed, all of those things can be seizures, and those things people usually just discount.

So did he really not have a seizure between 1993 and now? Only his doctor can get the answer to that. But again, it certainly, on the other hand, is possible that one can have two seizures that are very far apart.

That doesn't mean that the next one is going to be equally as far apart. One of the concerns about seizures is that they're unpredictable. That's what makes them so worrisome to people, is that you don’t know what's going to happen next. You don't know whether it's going to be tomorrow or a week from now or a month from now or 10 years from now. That is, in fact, why many people opt for some treatment, because, obviously, it can be an emotionally traumatic event, and not knowing when the next one is going to happen is usually very anxiety provoking. So a lot of people want to make sure that that's not going to happen.

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