When you think back to your last few seizures, do you notice any patterns in how you felt or what you were doing before they happened? If so, these could be your seizure triggers.
‘Triggers’ are anything which makes it more likely that a person with epilepsy will have a seizure. They can be internal things such as feeling stressed, or external things like flashing lights. As you get to know your epilepsy better, you might start to notice what triggers seizures for you. 9 in 10 people with epilepsy say they are aware of at least one seizure trigger affecting them.
By being aware of what triggers seizures for you, it might be possible to reduce your chances of having one. It can be very helpful to track when you think you have had a seizure and any possible triggers to learn more about them - you can do this with the Epsy App.
7 Common seizure triggers
People with epilepsy report having many different kinds of seizure triggers. Here are 7 common seizure triggers - do you recognize any of them from your own experiences?
- Missed medication: Missing doses of your seizure medication may increase your risk of having a seizure. Forgetting to take your meds is a leading cause of breakthrough seizures, so it’s important to take your anti-epilepsy drugs as your doctor prescribed.
- Tiredness: If you’re tired and are not sleeping properly, you may be at risk of having more seizures. Research shows that tiredness is seen as the most common seizure trigger among people with epilepsy.
- Stress: Stress affects the chemicals and electrical activity happening in our brains - and many people with epilepsy associate feeling stressed with seizures. In fact, it’s seen as the second most common seizure trigger. Seizures triggered by anxiety and stress may be controlled by avoiding or limiting stressful situations. It might also be helpful to use mindfulness techniques to help calm yourself down.
- Alcohol: Knowing what triggers seizures in adults is important for doctors. For some people, alcohol can be a factor. It is not usually the alcohol itself that causes the seizures - but the way it affects your sleep. If you’re thinking of drinking alcohol, speak with your doctor about how to do so safely.
- Menstruation: Around half of women with epilepsy who menstruate have more seizures around the time they are having their periods. This is known as catamenial epilepsy.
User story: Read Nessa’s experiences with catamenial epilepsy
- Illness/high body temperature: Your body responds to colds and flus by raising your temperature - but this may cause seizures too.
- Flashing or flickering lights: Some people with epilepsy have seizures that are triggered by strobe lights. Known as ‘photosensitive epilepsy’ it is actually relatively uncommon (only about 3 - 5% of people with epilepsy have it).
There are other kinds of triggers too - including caffeine, low blood sugar, dehydration, and illegal drugs. It is always worth speaking to your treatment team for advice on your personal situation. It’s also important to know that not everyone has specific triggers.
Use a diary to track seizure triggers
A great way to figure out what your triggers are is to keep an epilepsy seizure diary. Use Epsy to record possible seizure triggers. They will be stored in your doctor’s report and you can then use this to discuss potential triggers with your treatment team and how to avoid possible triggers.