Taking control of your epilepsy is an important part of managing your condition. In addition to taking your anti-epileptic medication there are other things you can actively do, or not do, to help reduce seizure frequency. Below is a list of potential trigger factors for people with seizures, some are avoidable and others are less easy to avoid. Due to the individual nature of epilepsy, not all those factors listed will apply to you.
When you read this list aim to be as honest as possible in trying to identify any triggers in your lifestyle which may impact on your seizure pattern and which you could avoid or minimise. Where seizures are related to lifestyle issues, you alone have the power and the choice to try to reduce them or perhaps even to eliminate them, which should benefit both your health and general well being.
A seizure diary can help you to identify some triggers, such as lack of sleep, too much alcohol, stress or forgetting tablets. Sometimes there is no obvious trigger, seizures just happen. It may help to think of which triggers are easier or harder to avoid and make a plan around them. Seizure diary templates are available for download at the end of this page. We also have an app which may help to record your seizures and triggers. Visit the 'Our Services' section of our website for further details on this.
- Missed Medication: If forgetting to take your medications is a problem, consider a pill dispenser-available from pharmacies or make use of the Epilepsy Ireland Management App.
- Stress: Stress can come from many sources, demanding workload in school or in a job, unemployment, diagnosis of epilepsy, pressure of finances, marriage, family problems etc, arguments, conflict, bereavement or loss. Consider stress management and relaxation classes - you may be able to access these in your local area or get in touch with your local Epilepsy Ireland Community Resource Officer.
- Lack of sleep: Try to have regular sleep patterns and avoid late nights if possible. If planning a late night compensate by napping earlier in the day, if sleep is broken for lengthy periods talk to your GP
- Alcohol: Overuse of alcohol commonly triggers seizures, it's best to keep your intake moderate or as advised by your doctor. Visit the 'Alcohol' section of our website for more on this.
- Skipping meals: Aim to have a regular pattern of meals - do not skip mealtimes even when busy. Poor nutrition may lead to deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals: Ensure you eat healthily.
- Emotional distress: Anxiety, excitement, boredom, fear, grief, anger or depression can lead to increased seizures. Consider counselling or stress management approaches.
- Stimulants: The use of stimulant substances such as street drugs and energy drinks with high levels of caffeine should be avoided. Withdrawal from alcohol or street drugs can trigger seizures: if these are a problem in your life seek help from your GP.
- Physical activity: Overexertion, or being too inactive, can lead to increased seizures. Take a sensible approach to exercise, know your fitness levels and limits and pace yourself.
Other Triggers (difficult to avoid)
- Menstrual Periods: in some cases only, also in catamenial epilepsy
- Flashing Lights: In cases where a person has been diagnosed with photosensitive epilepsy
- Sickness: Illness, injury and pain, fever with high temperatures; take care to reduce temperature and seek treatment for illness and injuries.
- Breathing: Hyperventilation, and conversely breath holding; If either is a problem seek your GP's advice
- Hormones: Hormonal disturbances changes e.g. menopause; Metabolic disturbances
- Sounds/Noise: Specific sound (e.g. sudden loud noise), visual (lights or geometric pattern) and touch (texture) stimuli. If you are triggered by any of these you should inform others who may expose you to them and try to avoid strong contrasting patterns, disco lights, noisy machinery or whatever stimulus triggers you.
- Changing Time Zones: When travelling on long haul trips, changes of time zone may disrupt sleep patterns and medication schedules. Discuss your travel plans with your doctor some weeks in advance of departure, so that any necessary adjustments can be accommodated.
We have a specific resource on triggers and lifestyle issues, which you can read about in our 'Safety and Seizures' booklet.
Memory & Wellbeing
Problems with memory is often communicated as an issue for many people with epilepsy and one that is often discussed with our team of Community Resource Officers. Issues with memory can present for a number of reasons including - but not limited to - side effects from medications; where a person's epilepsy originates from in their brain and due to the frequency of a person's seizures.
Likewise, due to the individual nature of epilepsy and given it can be extremely challenging - particularly when a person does not have control over their seizures - this can be extremely detrimental to a person's mental health & wellbeing. On a daily basis, this is another issue that our Community Resource Officers are supporting people with epilepsy on.
If you are experiencing any of these issues, our 'Memory & Wellbeing' booklet may be of support to you.