The vast majority of Angelman syndrome patients, around 90%, experience some form of seizures.
Seizures can be unpredictable, but you may notice that they occur more commonly under certain circumstances, and too frequently to be coincidence. These events are known as seizure triggers. Here is information about various seizure triggers, and the importance of monitoring them.
What are seizure triggers?
A seizure trigger is an event that precedes a seizure fairly consistently. Not every seizure will have an obvious trigger, and simply because something may be a trigger does not mean it will always result in a seizure.
Still, understanding what might trigger a seizure in your child can help you to anticipate a seizure and, possibly, to avoid that trigger, lessening the chance of a seizure taking place.
Possible seizure triggers
A number of different things can trigger a seizure. Triggers vary from person to person, and not everyone will have obvious triggers.
Here are some common triggers of seizures.
Seizures caused by an increase in body temperature, called febrile seizures, may be somewhat common in children with Angelman syndrome. One published study traced seizures in 10 of 19 Angelman patients (53%) to fevers, while noting that all these children had more than one type of seizure.
Infections that cause a fever usually lead to febrile seizures, but some Angelman children can have trouble regulating their body temperature. In these instances, a fever can result without an underlying infection or evidence of inflammation.
One of the most common triggers of seizures is missing a dose of a medication given to control seizures, called an anti-epileptic. Keeping a regular schedule of when your child should take such medications (such as around meals), or set alerts to help reduce the likelihood of you forgetting to give the medicine.
Lack of sleep
Another common seizure trigger is a lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep, like frequent wakening. This can be an issue for some Angelman syndrome patients, as they tend to have sleep disturbances that affect a restful night. Some may also have seizures at night, which disrupt their sleep and make them more prone to further seizures.
Caffeine acts as a stimulant and can increase the chances of your child having a seizure. Avoid giving your child food and beverages with high amounts of caffeine such as coffee, tea, dark chocolate, sodas, and energy drinks.
Although more rare, some people experience seizures when exposed to flashing lights. These flashing lights, which children are particularly more sensitive to, can come from television shows or video games. They could also be flashing strobe lights at a party or come from a fire alarm. Even sunlight could be a potential trigger if it reflects off of moving waves, or creates flashes as it passes through blinds or tree branches.
Girls and young women may notice an increase in seizures during menstruation. This sensitivity is believed to be due to hormonal changes that affect nerve cells in the brain, leading to seizures.
How to identify seizure triggers?
Whenever your child has a seizure, be sure to record all pertinent points about it in their seizure diary. You should include the time of day it occurred, how long it lasted, what type of seizure it appeared to be, and any special circumstances that might have occurred before the seizure, especially any of the triggers listed above.
If you suspect something might be a trigger, be sure to track it in that diary. Noting possible triggers could help you and your child’s doctor determine if they are really a trigger or just coincidental. For example, you might notice that sleepless or restless nights precede seizures in your child. But you might also find that your child often sleeps poorly but only rarely has seizures, and the two lack consistency. Be sure to bring your concerns to your child’s doctor, so you might best understand whether disturbed sleep is or is not a likely trigger.
Last updated: March 1, 2021
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