Rethinking Seizure Care Blog

Specific Stimuli Can Trigger Epileptic Seizures

Posted by RSC Diagnostics on Sep 19, 2019

Industrial worker cutting and welding metal with many sharp sparks

Reflex epilepsy is a puzzling and uncommon condition where specific stimuli trigger seizures. Sometimes the seizures may be brought on by a person’s surrounding or they may be triggered when doing certain activities. Those who suffer from it typically have a normal neurological exam. Triggers may produce a range of outcomes—from simple twitching in some patients to full blown tonic-clonic seizures in others. Any normal, everyday activity may trigger an event.

Experiencing Reflex Epilepsy

While there are many forms of reflex epilepsy, the most common form seems to be triggered by photosensitivity. Photosensitivity is triggered by various forms of lighting, most often flashing lights. These light sources include emergency vehicle lights, arcs created in welding, and strobe lights at concerts or events. Those who experience this type of reflex epilepsy typically do not gain medical clearance to perform the job of welding; it is exceedingly dangerous to have a seizure while holding a torch and being around hot metal.

A common trigger for reflex epilepsy occurs when driving down a tree-lined road and light flashes between the trees. However, some people report that if they close one eye it may help to prevent a seizure. For other types of photosensitive triggers, avoidance may be the best solution. AED’s (anti-epileptic drugs) may be needed to control these types of seizures.

Who does Reflex Epilepsy Affect?

Reflex epilepsy most often begins in childhood, but could begin at any stage in life. Often, reflex epilepsy may resolve during childhood leaving young adults seizure free. There is no reason to suspect neurological abnormalities in most patients with reflex epilepsy. In fact, most patients will not have any remarkable findings during a complete neurological exam.

Types and triggers of Reflex Epilepsy

Reflex epilepsy can be brought on by a variety of everyday activities—external or internal triggers.

External triggers include:

  • Playing video games
  • Listening to music
  • Reading
  • Solving math problems
  • Being massaged or tapped
  • Immersion in hot water
  • Flashing lights

Internal triggers include:

  • Emotional reactions
  • Remembering emotional situations—while either awake or asleep.
  • Thinking epilepsy is a rare form of reflex epilepsy that is induced by performing calculations or playing games such as Rubik’s Cube, chess, cards, etc. In 2015, a German man experienced a seizure while trying to solve a Sudoku puzzle. The story caught international attention because he was the first reported case where visualizing various outcomes to solve this type of puzzle triggered a seizure.

Internal reflex epilepsy more commonly occur in people who have previous brain injuries.

Some people experience seizures by going into or being submersed in hot water. This form of reflex epilepsy seems to affect only a small portion of the world’s population. Hot water epilepsy is typically seen in older children and teenagers in southern areas of India. Genetic factors play a role in this rare form of epilepsy.

Treatment for Reflex Epilepsy

Treatment for reflex epilepsy is normally very straightforward. The best way to prevent these seizures is to avoid these specific triggers. However, if avoiding triggers is not possible there are other treatments available. To help manage your reflex seizures your health care provider may prescribe AED’s to help control seizure activity during the times when you will be exposed to your triggers.

Outcomes for Reflex Epilepsy

The outlook for reflex epilepsy is very good overall. Many people outgrow reflex epilepsy that begins in childhood. However, some people may experience reflex epilepsy throughout their lives. Fortunately, most cases of reflex epilepsy can be managed with appropriate dosages of AED’s or avoidance of personal triggers.

While reflex epilepsy continues to puzzle scientists around the world, it is a relatively uncommon condition. If not treated, approximately 75% of sufferers will continue to have seizures after age 25, so it is important to work with your doctor to manage your condition.




Reflex Epilepsies. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2015, from

Reflex Epilepsy. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2015, from

Reflex Epilepsies. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2015, from





Topics: Epilepsy Research