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Seizure Triggers with Sean Hayes & Michael Privitera, M.D.

Triggers are activities or behaviors that can lower your seizure threshold. In other words, triggers make it easier for your body to have a seizure.

Some common seizure triggers include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Increased stress
  • Going beyond your normal tolerance for alcohol or other substances
  • Changing eating habits, or
  • Missing medications.

Everyone’s triggers are different. You know your body best, and it’s important you understand your own limitations…. Crossing those lines puts you at risk for more seizures.

Sean Hayes: If you live with epilepsy, it is important to be aware of any conditions or activities that may trigger your seizures. For example, sometimes lack of sleep or too much stress can bring about a seizure. Here are some tips on how to help you manage your seizures.

Greg Grunberg: First, I'd like to ask you to discuss: What are triggers? But also, can they change from adolescence into adulthood? 

Michael Privitera, M.D. (American Epilepsy Society): Oh sure. So "triggers" are things that may predispose somebody to have a seizure. The most common trigger is actually one we don't know much about, which is, people say, "stress." So, stress means a lot of different things to different people. But a "trigger" is something in the environment which would make it more likely that someone would have a seizure. So sometimes it's hard to define or identify a trigger, because it doesn't always trigger.  So, you might have something like staying up all night, or maybe drinking some alcohol, which may be triggers for a lot of people, but if it doesn't trigger it every time, so people say, maybe it is  a trigger, maybe not. It can be hard to identify. 

Greg: So if somebody is light-sensitive, or sensitive to games with flashing lights, would that also be a trigger?

Michael: Certainly. It's sort of widely thought about that flashing lights are a common trigger for seizures, but actually it's only a subgroup of people with seizures that are light-triggered. Most people with seizures aren't triggered by flashing lights. But then again, certain people will tell me about certain triggers that they have. What I know is that stress is a trigger. So if  you think that something is a trigger, then that may create a stressful response, where the stress itself creates the seizure. So they think, "Every time I see my mother in law, I have a seizure!" (chuckles).

Sean: For more information on how to manage seizures, please visit