There are various triggers that can provoke epilepsy seizure. They include:
- Lack of sleep
- Stress and excitement
- Missed meal
- Missed medication
- Drinking alcohol
- Taking illicit drugs
- Flickering lights or patterns
- Illness (especially diarrhea or vomiting)
- High body temperature
These are the most common triggers. However some people have very unique triggers, like listening to a special kind of sound or eating a certain food. Exposure to triggers increases the chances of experiencing a seizure. Being well informed about these triggers can help reduce the number of seizures. For instance, if missing a meal is a prominent trigger for one person, then they understand the importance of taking meals. In time this will reduce the number of seizures.
- Lack of sleep: Getting adequate rest reduces the chances of getting seizures. This doesn’t mean staying away from activities but finding a good balance between being active in the daytime and getting adequate sleep at night to gain energy for the next day.
- Stress (anxiety and excitement): People experience negative and positive stress, both of which can provoke a seizure.
- Menstruation: There are women who have more seizures during menstruation; it is essential for them to inform their doctor about it. There are medications that can be taken during these days to reduce the number of seizures. Like other anti-epileptic drugs, they have to be prescribed by the doctor and can’t be bought over the counter. They also need to be taken every month to be effective.
- Missed meal: Missing a meal or eating later than usual can cause the body to get out of balance and could consequently trigger a seizure. It is therefore very important to eat regularly in the morning, afternoon and evening.
- Missed medication: Forgetting to take your medication or taking it a bit late can trigger a seizure. It is important to take another dose if you vomit half an hour aft er taking medication because the other one may not have been absorbed by the body.
- Illness: A seizure can be triggered by illnesses such as fever, fl u, malaria, and diarrhea. It is important to inform a doctor that you are being treated for epilepsy before they treat you for any other illness. This is because other drugs can affect how the anti-epileptic drugs works.
- Drinking alcohol: When you have epilepsy, drinking alcohol may affect your body more than it does others. The alcohol usually takes effect faster and may even trigger a seizure. However, it depends on the amount you take; only a sip will not have much of an effect. It doesn’t typically provoke a seizure straight away, but about 6 to 72 hours aft er the alcohol intake. Ask yourself if the eff ect of the alcohol intake is worth the pleasure of drinking it.
- Taking of illicit drugs: Illicit drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy do more than only make you high for a moment. They also affect the body in the long term. For some people, taking illicit drugs leads to epilepsy. If you already have epilepsy, the illicit drugs can make your epilepsy worse as well as trigger seizures. Therefore we strongly advise you not to use illicit drugs.
- Flickering lights or patterns: Only 3% to 5% of people with epilepsy are sensitive to flickering lights or patterns. This may be when they watch television, work on the computer, or sit under a tree where the sunlight shines through the leaves as the wind rustles them.
- Overheating: Staying in the sun for long can cause a body to overheat and can lead to a seizure for people with epilepsy. This doesn’t mean that one has to stay indoors all the time to avoid the warm sunshine. When it’s very warm indoors, then catch a fresh breeze outside. If overheating is a major trigger, find ways to get fresh air. You can also consider protecting your head from the warm sun with a hat, just as walking in the shade can keep you fresh.
It’s important to understand that these triggers cannot give you epilepsy. They can only provoke a seizure if you already have epilepsy. Triggers are not the same for everyone and it can take some time to recognize them, especially if seizures are not frequent. Although trigger reduction is crucial, it is important to know that epilepsy is not caused by it. We recommend that people with epilepsy discuss the seizures with their doctor to ensure that the medical treatment offered is the right one.