You cannot predict when you are going to have a seizure. Most people don’t know what
causes them. There are certain “seizure triggers” that can increase your chance of having
a seizure even if taking medicine. This sheet is to inform you of things that may trigger
A seizure trigger is something that can make it more likely to have a seizure, mainly if
you already have trend to having seizures.
1. Missing Doses
The most common seizure trigger is missing doses of your seizure medicine. The
medicine works best when taken every day, around the same time of day. This can result
in a stable level of the drug in your blood.
2. Alcohol and Drugs
Too much use of alcohol or certain drugs (such as cocaine, ecstasy), or a sudden stop of
either can trigger seizures. Some prescribed medicine, over the counter or herbal
medicine may also trigger seizures because they lower your seizure threshold. They may
also interfere with your seizure medicine. Always check with your pharmacist when
starting a new medicine to see if it will affect your seizure medicine.
3. Lack of Sleep
This is a known seizure trigger. We suggest a regular sleep pattern, avoid late nights, or
going without sleep if you can. You should also seek treatment for sleep apnea or other
causes of chronic sleep loss to decrease the risk of breakthrough seizures.
Infections, vomiting, diarrhea and fever can also lower your seizure threshold, making it
more likely to have a breakthrough seizure.
For some women hormones can trigger seizures at certain times in their monthly
menstrual cycle. You may have frequent seizures during the premenstrual and ovulating
phases. Discuss any changes that may help reduce seizures during your monthly cycle
with your Neurologist and Primary Care Doctor.
Many people with epilepsy report that emotional stress and anxiety can be a seizure
trigger, mainly when combined with severe fatigue or lack of sleep. Therapy and taking
part in support groups may help you find ways to relax. This can decrease stress and
anxiety and improve coping skills and your quality of life.
7. Sensory Input
Some people who have “Reflex Epilepsy,” have seizures that are triggered by an external
stimulus. These triggers may include; a light that flickers or flashes, music, reading,
math, touch, and soaking in hot water. Once the trigger is known, you should avoid it and
take your medicine.
Many people with epilepsy do not have seizure triggers. It varies with each person. You
should keep precise records of your seizures and include details of what occurred before
the seizure. This can help to point to the likely trigger. One great way of doing this is by
keeping a seizure diary. If you record your seizures it will be helpful to track the pattern
and find the triggers that you may be able to avoid. This will improve your quality of
life. Rather than increasing your seizure medicine, it is better to identify seizure triggers
and avoid them. Increase doses of medicine may also increase your chance of side
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call
if you have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with
your doctor. This is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical
condition. Because each person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on
your health care team when using this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©
2/2015 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the
Department of Nursing. HF#7321