Understanding Epilepsy Triggers

What do alcohol, PMS, lack of sleep, and flashing lights have in common? They can all be triggers for epileptic seizures.

Epilepsy is a chronic disorder that is characterized by recurrent seizures. It is the fourth most common neurological disorder in the United States and it affects people of all ages. There is no cure for epilepsy, but it can be treated. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, an average of 150,000 people in the U.S. will develop epilepsy each year. A person with epilepsy can experience different types of seizures, and the severity of a person’s seizures can vary greatly depending on the person’s condition.

What is a trigger?

Triggers are things that may predispose someone with epilepsy to have a seizure. This can include anything in a person’s environment that increases their likelihood of having a seizure. Some of the most common triggers for seizures include sleep deprivation, missing medication, alcohol, and stress. There are many other triggers including light sensitivity, time of day, diet, hormonal changes, and more.

It can be hard to identify your triggers, but it’s worth the trouble. This information can help you reduce the number of seizures you experience, and cope better with the unavoidable seizures. Bear in mind that stress can be a seizure trigger — so unrelated or random-seeming events may just be things that cause you stress.

There are also a number of things that can lower a person’s threshold for seizures, making it more likely for a seizure to occur. For example, flu, cold, or other illnesses can lower the threshold and increase the likelihood for a person to have a seizure.

How to manage epilepsy

Although there is no cure for epilepsy, there are a number of things that you can do to help manage it and help manage seizures.

Since stress is such a common trigger, many advocate relaxation and stress reduction exercises and techniques. Regular exercise and a healthy diet are also encouraged to help manage seizures. Many find that using medication is an effective way to help manage epilepsy.

While some people don’t feel comfortable sharing that they have epilepsy, it could be helpful. Not only will talking about it help reduce confusion and stigma, but telling people – such as teachers, colleagues, peers, or co-workers – about it can help people know how to respond and react to your seizures.

Keeping a journal of what happens during the day with as much information as you can possibly recall can be a good tool. Track the factors that could potentially lead to seizures. However, since it can be so difficult to accurately identify your seizure triggers, it’s important to share this information with your doctor. Sometimes seizures can occur without any trigger at all, even in people who have triggers. Consulting a physician can help avoid false associations.

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