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Updated May 2011

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Seizure Triggers Differ Latest Study Finds

* Stress (30%) was the most frequently cited trigger
* Sleep deprivation (lack of sleep) (18%)
* Sleep itself (14%)
* Fever or illness (14%)
* Fatigue (10%)

Stress, lack of sleep, and fatigue were often cited together. Heat, humidity, caffeine, and fasting were cited as triggers by fewer than 10%; 4% cited flashing lights; and 2% said that alcohol triggered their seizure.

This study was done by Michael M. Frucht and his colleagues and was published in the December 2000 issue of the journal "Epilepsia".

This information was developed by the Epilepsy Foundation. I was very fortunate to be among the few who attended a presentation by Robert Perkins, M.A., Prevention & Education Coordinator from the Florida Epilepsy Foundation, which was held at the Center for Independent Living at the May Brain Injury Support Meeting. The information that was detailed amazed me. I didn't realize that there were so many types of seizures, even though I have a seizure disorder myself. I thought it was important enough to make a web page of this information to make all brain injury survivors who have a seizure disorder aware of the many types of seizures.

(Also called Grand Mal)

What it looks like.

Sudden cry, fall, rigidity, followed by muscle jerks, shallow breathing or temporarily suspended breathing, bluish skin, possible loss of bladder or bowel control, usually last a couple of minutes. Normal breathing then starts again. There may be some confusion and/or fatigue, follwed by return to full consciousness.

What to do.

*Look for medical identification.
*Protect from nearby hazards.
*Loosen ties or shirt collars.
*Turn on side to keep airway clear unless injury exists. Reassure as consciousness returns.
*If single seizure lasted less than 5 minutes, ask if hospital evaluation wanted.
*If multiple seizures, or if one seizure last longer than 5 minutes, call an ambulance.
*If person is pregnant, injured, or diabetic, call for aid at once.
*DO NOT put any hard implement in the mouth, don't try to hold tongue, don't give liquids during or after seizure, and don't restrain.

(Also called Petit Mal)

What it looks like.

A blank stare, beginning and ending abruptly, lasting only a few seconds, most common in children. May be accompanied by rapid blinking, some chewing movements of the mouth. Child or adult is unaware of what's going on during the seizure, but quickly returns to full awareness once it has stopped. May result in learning difficulties if not recognized and treated.

What to do.

No first aid necessary, but if this is the first observation of the seizure(s), medical evaluation should be recommended.


What it looks like.

Jerking may being in one area of the body, arm, leg or face. Can't be stopped, but patient stays awake and aware. Jerking may proceed from one area of the body to another, and sometimes spreads to become a convulsive seizure.
Partial sensory seizures may not be obvious to an onlooker. Patient experiences a distorted environment. May see or hear things that aren't there, may feel unexplained fear, sadness, anger, or joy. May have nausea, experience odd smells, and have a generally "funny" feeling in the stomach.

What to do.

No first aid is necessary unless the seizure becomes convulsive, then first aid as indicated.
No immediate action needed other than reassurance and emotional support if the patient starts to express fear, sadness, anger or joy.
If the patient experiences odd smells and has a generally "funny" feeling in their stomach, medical evaulation should be recommended.

(Also called Psychomotor or Temporal Lobe)

What it looks like.

Usually starts with blank stare, followed by chewing, follwed by random activity. Person appears unaware of surroundings, may seem dazed and mumble. Unresponsive. Actions clumsy, not directed. May pick at clothing, pick up objects, try to take clothes off. May run, appear afraid. May sruggle or flail at restraint. Once pattern estrablished, same set of actions usualy occur with each seizure. Lasts a few minutes, but pot-seizure confusion can last substantially longer. No memory of what happened during seizure period.

What to do.

*Speak calmly and reassuringly to patient and others.
*Guide gently away from obvious hazards.
*Stay with person until completely aware of environment.
*Offer to help getting home.
*DO NOT grab or restrain unless sudden danger such as a cliff edge or approaching car threatens. DO NOT shout and do not expect verbal instructions to be obeyed.


What it looks like.

A child or adult suddenly collapses and falls. After 10 seconds to a minute, he recovers, regains consciousnes, and can stand and walk again.

What to do.

No first aid needed unless the patient hurt himself as he fell. A child should be given a thorough medical evaluation.


What it looks like.

Sudden brief, massive muscle jerks that may involve the whole body or parts of the body. May cause the person to spill what they were holding or fall off a chair.

What to do.

No first aid needed but should be given a thorough medical evaluation.


What it looks like.

These are clusters of quick, sudden movements that starts between 3 months and two years. If a child is sitting up, the head will fall forward and the arms will flex forward. If lying down, the knees will be drawn up with the arms and head flexed forward as if the baby is reaching for support.

What to do.

No first aid but a doctor should be consulted.

I found several web sites which give detailed information
about seizure disorder (epilepsy), living with epilepsy,
and the latest in treatments.

The Epilepsy Foundation

Seizures and Epilepsy: Hope Through Research

How is Long-Term Epilepsy Treated

Recent Developments in the Treatment of Epilepsy

A Discussion on Seizures

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