Seizures and Triggers

There are different types of epileptic seizures. Some people experience one type or many types at the period of their seizure. The three main seizures are Generalised, Absence and Partial seizures.

Generalised Seizures

Generalised seizures affect both halves of the brain. Consciousness is usually lost during the seizure. Other types of seizures that fall under this category are tonic-clonic seizures, myoclonic seizures, tonic seizures, atonic seizures and absence seizures.

Signs and symptoms of the other seizures may include:

  • Atonic Seizures: Sudden loss of muscle strength and collapsing to the floor
  • Myoclonic Seizures: Jerking or twitching of the limbs
  • Tonic Seizures: Sudden stiffening of the muscles
  • Tonic-clonic Seizures: Stiffening of the muscles, the person may fall to the ground and jerking of the limbs

Absence seizures

Absence seizures are a type of generalised seizures, affecting both sides of the brain. These seizures are more common in children than in adults where one becomes unresponsive for a short period of time. Due to the fact that it happens quickly, it is unrecognisable by the people around them that the person is experiencing a seizure episode. There are two types of absence seizures; typical absence seizures and atypical absence seizures.

  • Typical absence seizures usually last less than 10 seconds. During this type of seizures, one lose consciousness for a brief moment. One would stop all actions amidst any activities and seem to be daydreaming or staring into space. Other than that, their eyelids would flutter and there will be slight jerking movements of the body or limbs. One may experience this more than once in a day.
  • Atypical absence seizures usually last longer as compared to typical absence seizures; up to 30 seconds. One may experience their limbs being floppy causing some of them to fall.

Partial seizures

Partial seizures involves a specific part of the brain. These seizures are divided into two categories; simple partial seizures and complex partial seizures.

  • Simple partial seizures (also known as focal awareness seizures) last between a few seconds to two minutes. During a simple partial seizure, one is aware of his/her surroundings as their consciousness is not impaired, being able to remember the seizure after that and one will experience twitching of the arms and unusual sensations. One may also experience the feeling of fear or anger. 
  • Complex partial seizures affect a larger part of the brain and one’s consciousness is impaired whereby they are unaware of the situation around them as compared to simple partial seizures. During a complex partial seizure, one would stare blankly, all confused or smacking of the lips, fiddling with their clothing and moving around aimlessly.

Some individuals are more likely to experience frequent episodes of seizures due to certain triggers. Different individuals are affected by different triggers. Common triggers include:

1.  Missing their anti-epileptic medication doses

  • By taking your anti-epileptic medication as instructed by the doctor, it keeps to control the level of the medication in the blood therefore minimizing the risk of a seizure happening.

2.  Excessive/Heavy consumption of alcohol

  • Alcohol can interfere the efficacy of the anti-epileptic drugs as it prevents the medication from reaching a certain level needed to control seizures.

3.  Lack of sleep

  • Lack of sleep can cause a higher chance of a seizure episode. It is said that there are no explanation as to why sleep deprivation can cause seizures but normally upon sleeping and waking up, there is a change in the brain’s activity and hormonal levels. This is also why some types of seizures are prone to happen during sleep and upon waking up too.

4.  Stress

  • Stress is a state of mental and emotional strain or tension. Stress is also known to cause forgetfulness which would then cause one to miss their dose of antiepileptic drug; causing the possibility of a seizure episode. Stress can lead to difficulties in sleeping which then increases the chance of a seizure. Stress can cause chemical changes in the brain affecting the brain. This leads to an increase in the possibility of a seizure episode.

5. Flashing or flickering light (Photosensitive epilepsy)

  • Photosensitive epilepsy is a type of epilepsy where the seizures are triggered by flashing or flickering light. These flashing and flickering lights cause the brain to be overloaded with images to be deciphered causing the seizures to happen. It is said that about 3 in every 100 people with epilepsy have photosensitive epilepsy.

6. Menstrual Cycle

  • One is prone to having more seizure episodes than usual during their menstrual cycle.