Do You Know Your Triggers? Mine are Hesitation and Photosensitivity

Do You Know Your Triggers? Mine are Hesitation and Photosensitivity

Those of you like me know what causes us to have an epileptic seizure. We know our own bodies and, by looking back at what we were doing at the time, have worked out the reason.

That means we have what’s known as reflex epilepsy, in which seizures take place in response to a certain thing happening. These are known as triggers.

My brother had one trigger of which I am aware: that of long and hard concentration on something visual. I, on the other hand, have two. My first is hesitation, and my second is photosensitivity.

The first was obvious when comparing my first and second seizures. Or, rather, looking at the similarities.

Before the first, as junior reporter, I was taking dictation in a shorthand class in the newsroom after work. I hesitated over a shorthand outline and that was it.

The second time, I was at home playing my first and, as it tuned out, only, game of Chinese checkers when I dithered about which move to make. So, there you are, my first trigger was identified; hesitation.

The other trigger only became known during one of my first EEG tests. At one point a rapidly flashing light was shone into my eyes. I felt myself start to go when the guy monitoring the readout saw what was happening and switched off the flashing light.

People are so aware of the dangers these days that theaters have warnings and TV news anchors even warn about images of camera flashlights on their programs.

So, having reflex epilepsy, how do we go about using that knowledge to our advantage and try to keep seizures to an absolute minimum? Well, it might be a case of stating the obvious, but we need to avoid our triggers. This can be easier said than done but it is essential.

In my case, to avoid hesitation, I became a positive decision-maker. In fact, I am bold about decisions and have almost completely eliminated hesitation.

An evening out at the theater is not going to be stopped by a few flashing lights, of which a stroboscope is the worst. As soon as the lights start flashing, I close my eyes and bury my face in my hands until Lisa, my wife, tells me it’s safe to come out.

If you think you might have reflex epilepsy, please check out the Epilepsy Foundation’s website. It includes a page with extremely useful information about ways to identify triggers that may affect you.


[You are invited to visit my personal MS, Health & Disability website at].

Note: Epilepsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Epilepsy News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to epilepsy.

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Ian Franks is our Chief Columnist and Patient Specialist. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media; during which he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with Epilepsy in 1972 and MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain and uses his skills to write his own flourishing specialist Health & Disability website at Besides Epilepsy and MS, Ian is also able to write about cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

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