Managing Your Seizures
- There are numerous ways you can contribute to good seizure management – medications aren’t the only way
- Often seizures are not triggered by a single factor but multiple factors in combination can trigger a seizure
- This information provides an overview of self-management techniques you can use to manage your seizures
Managing a condition like epilepsy can be difficult & challenging. Many people with epilepsy feel they have no control over their seizures because they can happen at any time often without warning. However, there are ways you can contribute to achieving good seizure control. There are three main steps to managing your seizures:
- Understanding your seizures
- Recognising your seizures triggers
- Managing your seizure triggers
Understanding your seizures
Epilepsy is very different from person to person. The first step is to understand your epilepsy diagnosis and seizures so that you will be better able to manage your condition.
It is helpful to know what types of seizures you have, what happens during the seizure, how frequently the seizures occur and how long they last. A useful way of gaining this information is to keep a seizure diary. You can use a notebook, access our Seizure Record Form or use an app like Seizure Tracker. You may need someone to video or write down a detailed description of what occurred during your seizure.
Good communication with your doctor is essential. Ask your doctor to explain your diagnosis and the type of seizures you experience. You can also contact our Information Line to speak with a support worker.
Recognising your triggers
Identifying factors that are likely to bring on a seizure (seizure triggers) can help you recognize when a seizure may occur. You may be able to make changes to reduce the chance of experiencing a seizure. Using a seizure record can help identify your seizure triggers. Not everyone’s seizure triggers are the same, although missed medications, lack of sleep, excessive alcohol and stress are very common triggers for many people with epilepsy. Many people are unable to identify any factors that trigger a seizure.
Managing Your Medication
For most people anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) can be effective at preventing seizures however they need to be taken consistently. Missing medication will increase your chance of having a breakthrough seizure, or may result in more frequent, intense or longer seizures which could be life threatening requiring emergency treatment. There are many aids and strategies which can help you to manage your medication, including tablet boxes, pill timers and alarms. Speak to your specialist or pharmacist if you have concerns about your medication.
Stress is a part of daily life; however for some people stress can trigger seizures. Increasing evidence suggests that implementing stress management techniques and decreasing stress may improve seizure control. Stress management techniques include relaxation and breathing, meditation, exercise and anxiety management. Speaking with your doctor about high levels of stress or anxiety is important because they can develop a management plan for you that could be very helpful.
Having quality sleep
Lack of sleep is a very common trigger for seizures. If you don’t get enough sleep, or enough good quality sleep you may be more likely to have a seizure. Try to reduce late nights and keep a regular sleep pattern. If you have concerns about your sleep you should discuss this with your doctor.
Managing other seizure triggers
Alcohol: Alcohol can reduce the effectiveness of some AEDs; can also result in lost & poorer quality sleep and missed medications. Speak to your specialist if alcohol is an issue for you.
Diet: Some people are susceptible to seizures if they miss meals due to low blood sugar levels. Eat regularly and immediately after waking in the morning to lessen the likelihood of blood sugar level swings. Caffeine may also be a trigger so limit caffeine consumption if you think this may be a trigger for you.
Exercise: It is rare for physical exertion to trigger seizures. In fact, there is some evidence that exercise may actually improve seizure control. Exercise is very good for people with epilepsy however safety should be considered. Seek guidance from your doctor about the suitability for you to participate in sports and leisure.
Illness and fever: Illness, injury with pain, and fever with high temperature can trigger seizures. If unwell, keep your temperature down and seek medical attention if required.
Menstruation and hormones: Some women have more seizures during certain times in their menstrual cycle, after child birth and leading up to menopause. If you suspect this may be occurring with you, keep a diary and speak to your doctor.
Over the counter drugs: Other medications may interact with your AED’s. Make sure your doctor knows all the medications you are taking including herbs and supplements.
Photosensitivity: For some people, especially children, with epilepsy, exposure to flashing lights at certain intensities or to certain visual patterns can trigger seizures. Avoid exposure to these triggers if these factors affect you.
© Epilepsy Foundation September 2017. The information contained in this publication provides general information about epilepsy. It does not provide specific advice. Specific health and medical advice should always be obtained from a qualified health professional.
Reviewed by: Professor Patrick Kwan FRACP, PhD, Chair of Neurology, Department of Medicine, The University of Melbourne
Epilepsy Foundation, 587 Canterbury Road, Surrey Hills, VIC 3127, Australia, Telephone: (03) 8809 0600