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Lifestyle & Triggers

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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. Not all those factors listed will apply to you.

Recording Triggers

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 (weekly diary or monthly 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.

Apps such as the Epilepsy Ireland Management App can also help you to record potential seizure triggers.

Potential Triggers

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 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 take one of Epilepsy Ireland's STEPS Self Management programmes.

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

Overuse of alcohol commonly triggers seizures, it's best to keep your intake moderate or as advised by your doctor.

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.

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 those few 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.

To find out more about triggers and other lifestyle issues please download our 'Safety and Seizures' booklet here

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. You can download the booklet here.