"In most cases, seizures are random events," says Joyce Liporace, neurologist at Riddle Hospital, part of Main Line Health in Pennsylvania. But Liporace, as well as patients, caregivers, and other medical professionals, is also increasingly looking into behavioral factors that may affect the frequency of seizures and even their severity. Here's what to be aware of:
Don't skip medication.
Seizures can be provoked simply by missing a dose or two of medication. Put medication in a place where the person who is taking it is not likely to overlook it. For instance, set it right on the bedside table or next to the coffeemaker.
Sleep deprivation is known to be a seizure trigger. A regular sleep routine -- going to bed at approximately the same time each night and waking at the same time in the morning -- promotes good sleep. Avoid overstimulation, such as watching television, before bedtime. If sleep problems persist, request a sleep assessment from your doctor.
Avoid visual triggers.
Some people with epilepsy are photosensitive. Flickering television images, video games, and flashing lights can provoke seizures. If a person with epilepsy is watching television, experts advise that the rest of the room be well lit and that the viewer be at least eight feet away from the TV.
Aerobic exercise in particular is good for sleep and overall health. But take precautions. Don't let your loved one swim alone, and make sure any exercise area has cushioned flooring and is free from obstructions.
There isn't a proven link between touch therapy and seizures, but touch has been well established as a way to reduce seizure triggers, such as stress. Touch therapy also enhances relaxation and healthy sleep. Doctors recommend disciplines such as chiropractic therapy, massage, and cranial sacral therapy.
Eat a balanced diet.
For anyone who wants good health, doctors stress eating a balanced diet with a variety of healthy foods -- and for people with epilepsy there are some additional considerations. In some people, disturbances in levels of calcium, magnesium, and sodium can be caused by antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). Vitamin D, which is extremely important for bone strength, can be diminished by AEDs. Have your doctor test for mineral and vitamin levels regularly.
Get bone density tests.
As antiepilepsy medications have been proven to decrease bone density, they put people with epilepsy at greater risk for osteoporosis, osteopenia, and fractures from falls. Schedule regular bone density tests.
Cut down on the java.
Studies have not directly linked caffeine with increased seizure activity, but caffeine is linked to sleep deprivation, which triggers seizures. Doctors recommend half cups of decaf mixed with regular.
Again, many studies point to stress as a trigger for seizures. Liporace suggests biofeedback, mediation, prayer, exercise, and reading help reduce stress.
Care for yourself, too.
Remember that, as a caregiver, you have to take care of yourself in order to provide care. All of these suggestions help promote better health whether or not you have a chronic condition such as epilepsy.
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