Seizures can be very scary, but for people who have epilepsy, they can happen every day. Patients with epilepsy can get help and take medicine to lower their risk of having a seizure, but they should also stay away from certain things that might set off a seizure.
Some of the triggers are things that people without the disorder wouldn’t think twice about, but they are easy to avoid if the risks are known ahead of time. Here are six things to avoid if you have epilepsy or know someone who does, in honor of National Epilepsy Awareness Month…
1. Visual Overstimulation
In this case, we’re specifically talking about lights that flash or flicker. Epilepsy Action says that 3 out of every 100 people with the disorder can have seizures brought on by bright lights or patterns of lights (this is known as photosensitive epilepsy).
The source also says that artificial sources of light, like a TV, can cause seizures and that natural patterns of light can also be a risk. The source also says that there isn’t much time between the light trigger and the seizure.
2. Excessive Stress
Stress is bad for everyone’s health, but for people with epilepsy, it can be a seizure trigger. The Epilepsy Foundation says that even though it is known that stress can make the disorder worse, no one really knows why.
The site also says, “It’s hard to know how often stress causes seizures because everyone has a different idea of what stress is.” But you probably know how much stress you can handle, so if you feel too stressed out, it’s probably best to leave the situation if you can.
3. Lack of Sleep
Epilepsy Action says that two of the most common reasons why people with epilepsy have seizures are “feeling tired” and not getting enough sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation says that sleep can be a risk factor for people with epilepsy. “Sleep turns on the electrical charges in the brain that cause seizures, and seizures are timed according to the sleep-wake cycle,” the source says, adding that some patients have seizures while they are sleeping.
4. Menstrual Cycles
WebMD says that hormonal changes could make it more likely for a woman with epilepsy to have a seizure. WebMD.com says, “The normal hormonal cycles that women go through over the course of their lives have a direct effect on the pattern of epileptic seizures in some women.”
This can mean that younger women could find out they are epileptic when they hit puberty. The source says that when the body has more estrogen, the nervous system becomes more “excitable,” which can make seizures happen more often.
5. Substance Abuse
Epilepsy Foundation says that using illegal drugs, especially cocaine, can cause seizures in a matter of seconds. Other drugs, like stimulants like amphetamines, can be dangerous if not prescribed by a doctor.
Aside from street drugs, the source says that alcohol can also be a risk. The foundation says that having one or two drinks here and there doesn’t make seizures more likely. Instead, alcohol withdrawal symptoms are often what cause seizures. It says that this can happen if you’ve had three or more drinks.
6. Missing Medication Doses
Even though the drugs we’ve talked about so far aren’t good for epileptic people (or anyone else), epileptic medicines work well and are a big help in preventing seizures.
Even forgetting to take just one dose of medicine can cause a seizure. The risk also depends on how you’ve been told to take it. If you’re only supposed to take one dose a day, you’ve just missed a whole day’s worth. You can still take the other doses if you take it several times a day in smaller amounts.