Does Weather Affect Epilepsy?
When a person with epilepsy has a seizure, the electrical activity in their brain is disrupted. Clusters of nerve cells, called neurons, send too many electrical signals at too fast a pace. Doctors describe this as an electrical storm in the brain.1
This electrical storm can cause the person's muscles to spasm. They may lose consciousness or stare off into space. The seizure may create feelings of anxiety or confusion.1
What triggers an epileptic seizure?
Most seizures cannot be traced to a certain risk factor. But there can be triggers, which are different for every person. These include:1,2
- Missing a dose of seizure medicine
- Missing meals
- Lack of sleep
- Drug or alcohol use
- Flashing lights
Weather as a trigger for seizures
Many people with epilepsy report changes in weather as a trigger for seizures. It is not clear how the physical environment affects seizures. There has not been much research into how weather affects people with epilepsy.2-4
One study found that low pressure in the atmosphere may make seizures more likely. High humidity may also make seizures more likely. The authors of this study also found that people with less severe epilepsy were more likely to have a weather-related seizure. Scientists are not sure why this link exists. Our neurons may be more active during these weather conditions.2
Do high temperatures protect against seizures?
The study found that high air temperatures may lower seizure risk. This is different from having a high body temperature. High body temperatures can cause febrile seizure–related epilepsy syndrome.2
Another study found that higher air temperatures may help protect against seizures. But the scientists did not find that air pressure, humidity, or precipitation increase seizures. The need for more research is clear.3
How does climate change affect people with epilepsy?
The effect of climate change on epilepsy is hard to judge. The connection between the 2 is complicated. And climate change may only have an indirect effect on epilepsy. Common triggers such as stress, fatigue, and problems sleeping are made worse by climate change. Climate change may also affect body temperature, a trigger for seizures.4
Climate change can increase the spread of infection. Infections are another trigger for seizures. And during a health crisis, access to healthcare and medical supplies may be limited. These limits would put people with epilepsy at greater risk.4
Some scientists worry that climate change will make seizures more severe. Climate change may also make seizures more frequent. Scientists are concerned this will raise the risk of SUDEP, sudden unexpected death in epilepsy.4,5
Keeping a seizure diary
If you have epilepsy, you should keep a seizure diary. This diary will help you track what may trigger your seizures. Pay attention to what happens before and during a seizure.6,7
Make sure to note the weather conditions. Was it a humid day? Very hot or cold? Did it rain or storm? Noting these things will help you see any patterns in your seizure activity.6,7
You should also track other conditions that may have triggered a seizure. These include:1,6,7
- The quality of your sleep
- Changing your medicine or skipping a dose
- Whether you have an illness or infection
- What you ate and whether you missed a meal
- Your stress levels
Make sure to speak with your doctor about any changes in your epilepsy. It is vital that your doctors know about any possible triggers. That is the best way to maintain your health and well-being.7
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