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Examples of triggers
Not all people with epilepsy have seizure triggers. And the things that trigger one person’s seizures might not affect other people with epilepsy in the same way.
Here are some of the seizure triggers that have been reported by people with epilepsy:
Not taking epilepsy medicine as prescribed
Taking epilepsy medicines regularly, as prescribed by the doctor, will help to keep a steady level of the medicine in your blood.
Several studies have shown that missing a dose of your epilepsy medicine increases the risk of you having a seizure.
- Feeling tired and not sleeping well
It’s not known exactly why stress might trigger seizures. But many people with epilepsy say that if they are feeling stressed, they are more likely to have a seizure.
For some people, feeling stressed can lead to other things, such as changing sleeping or eating habits, drinking more alcohol, and feeling anxious or depressed. All of these can also increase your risk of having a seizure.Find out more
Alcohol and recreational drugs
Some people with epilepsy drink alcohol and some people don’t. It’s up to you to decide if you’re going to drink alcohol. But if you decide to drink alcohol, bear in mind that alcohol can make seizures more likely.
Drinking more than modest amounts of alcohol in 24 hours can increase the risk of having seizures. After heavy drinking, the risk is highest when the alcohol is leaving your body. This risk is usually between 6 and 48 hours after you’ve stopped drinking.Find out more
Recreational drugs include illegal drugs and ‘legal highs’. There is no control over what goes into these drugs. They can be dangerous and they can trigger seizures.
Flashing or flickering lights
Around 3 in 100 people with epilepsy have seizures that are triggered by flashing or flickering lights, or some patterns. This is called photosensitive epilepsy.
If you have photosensitive epilepsy, both natural and artificial light may trigger seizures. Some patterns, like stripes or checks, can also trigger seizures for some people with photosensitive epilepsy. You would usually have a seizure when you are looking at the trigger, or shortly after.Find out more
Some people with epilepsy find that they are more likely to have seizures at certain times of their menstrual cycle (periods).Find out more
Some people with epilepsy say that if they skip meals, they are more likely to have a seizure.
Having an illness which causes a high temperature
Some people say that they are more likely to have seizures when they have an illness, such as an infection that causes a high temperature.
How can I recognise my triggers?
Keeping a seizure diary is a good way to try and find out what might trigger your seizures.
Every time you have a seizure, record it and make a note of what you were doing and how you were feeling. If you do this over time, you might see a pattern emerging.
Epilepsy Action has more information about keeping a seizure diary.
How to avoid seizure triggers
There are some things you can do to avoid your seizure triggers. These include:
- Remembering to always take your epilepsy medicine
- Having a good sleep routine
- Trying to reduce your stress
- Limiting how much alcohol you drink
- Avoiding flashing or flickering lights (if you have photosensitive epilepsy)
- Talking to your doctor if your seizures follow a pattern connected to your menstrual cycle
- Eating regular meals
Epilepsy Action’s booklet and web pages about epilepsy and wellbeing have more detailed information about lifestyle changes which could reduce your risk of seizures.
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