Epilepsy triggers

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Not everyone with epilepsy has triggers — things that can set off a seizure. For those who do, triggers can include:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Video games, flashing lights, or bold, contrasting patterns
  • Missed medications
  • Stress
  • Menstruation or other hormonal changes
  • Illnesses or fevers

What causes epilepsy?

Not everyone with risk factors will develop epilepsy, and people can develop epilepsy without any risk factors. In addition, doctors can’t identify the cause in about half of cases.

When the cause is known, the most common factors are:

  • Brain infections such as meningitis or viral encephalitis
  • Head trauma, such as a concussion or more traumatic brain injury
  • Stroke or blocked blood supply to part of the brain
  • A brain tumor

Other causes and risk factors include:

  • Neurologic disorders such as autism; or Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia
  • Injury to an unborn baby, such as brain damage from lack of oxygen, poor nutrition, or an injury or infection affecting the mother
  • An inherited genetic defect
  • Seizures in childhood, especially long-lasting ones

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