An epileptic seizure can happen at any moment. This unpredictability is one of the worst things (if not THE worst) about epilepsy. The dream of all people with epilepsy is to never have a seizure again. Can we reach this dream?
In this article I explain 3 things:
- Why knowing your seizure triggers is important
- What the most common ones are, according to clinical researches
- How you can learn your triggers
Why knowing your triggers is important
With time, some people discover triggers that seem to provoke their seizures. For example, after drinking alcohol, some people know they are going to have a seizure.
Unfortunately, these triggers are different for everybody. But what if you could know yours?
- If you could know your triggers, you could avoid them.
- And if you can avoid them, you can avoid seizures.
- And if you can avoid seizures, you get control back over your life.
Well, to be honest, it is not that simple. You still might have seizures with no apparent triggers. And also, a trigger might not always provoke a seizure (e.g. drinking alcohol might not always result in a seizure).
Still, if you can understand your epilepsy and all its triggers, you might be able to reduce dramatically your seizures.
So let’s update above flow:
The most common triggers, according to science
According to various scientific studies (sources at the end of this article), up to 9 out of 10 people can identify at least one seizure trigger. Often, one person has more than one trigger provoking his seizures.
The most common triggers are shown in the graph below.
We learn a couple things here:
- More than 60% of people with epilepsy (PWE) report stress, tiredness and lack of sleep as triggers for their seizures.
- Around half of the people report triggers like forgetting medication, changing the treatment, having period (women only, of course), strong emotions and waking up.
- Rarer, but still 2 persons out of 10, report triggers like alcohol, visual stimuli, pain…
By the way, in the clinical studies, other rare triggers are also mentioned, like for example: having sexual intercourse (aw…), using drugs, excitement, change in diet, coffee…
How to know your triggers
You probably suspect some of the triggers above apply to your epilepsy.
But which ones are really triggering a seizure for you?
The best way to get to know this is by keeping a diary of your epilepsy and then analyze your triggers over time.
By systematically logging your seizures and indicating the probable triggers, you will better understand your epilepsy. Hopefully, you’ll then be able to work on these triggers to avoid them.
To help you with this, there’s a free mobile app: the helpilepsy assistant.
It’s a mobile app that helps you track your epilepsy (your seizures, your side effects, your treatments, etc.). This app makes it also easy for you to understand your epilepsy and manage it, for example with a nice report on your own seizure triggers.
DISCLAIMER: I am in the team working on the helpilepsy app and I think you’ll like it.
That’s it! Good luck with tracking & managing your epilepsy. Feel free to share your experience in comments.
If you liked this article, there’s a couple of things you can do that would mean the world to me:
- Share it with other people with epilepsy
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If you want more info on the helpilepsy assistant: helpilepsy.com
Monica Ferlisi, Simon Shorvon, Seizure precipitants (triggering factors) in patients with epilepsy, Epilepsy & Behavior, Volume 33, 2014, Pages 101–105
Jaya Pinikahana, Joanne Dono, Age and gender differences in initial symptoms and precipitant factors of epileptic seizures: An Australian study, Epilepsy & Behavior, Volume 16, Issue 2, 2009, Pages 231–239
E. Balamurugan, Meena Aggarwal, Anurag Lamba, Nitika Dang, Manjari Tripathi, Perceived trigger factors of seizures in persons with epilepsy, Seizure, Volume 22, Issue 9, 2013, Pages 743–747
Michael Privitera, Michael Walters, Ikjae Lee, Emily Polak, Adrienne Fleck, Donna Schwieterman, Sheryl R. Haut, Characteristics of people with self-reported stress-precipitated seizures, Epilepsy & Behavior, Volume 41, 2014, Pages 74–77
Tobias Lundgren, JoAnne Dahl, Nandan Yardi, Lennart Melin, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and yoga for drug-refractory epilepsy: A randomized controlled trial, Epilepsy & Behavior, Volume 13, Issue 1, 2008, Pages 102–108