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I had another seizure on a plane. The first one was about 2…

I had another seizure...

I had another seizure on a plane. The first one was about 2 years ago and I'd taken Ambien. This one I'd just taken some sudafed. They were both long flights and I'm guessing that there's a relationship between the fact that I was on some kind of drug (I don't use Ambien anymore) and took the sudafed b/c of terrible sinus pain (I usually don't use any kind of drugs - prescription or otherwise) and flying. Is this a stupid conclusion to reach?

Doctor's Assistant: How long have you had the pain? What seems to make the pain better or worse?

Sinus pain is gone.

Doctor's Assistant: Anything else in your medical history you think the doctor should know?

I had a partial thyroidectomy a few years ago.

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Answered in 5 hours by:
3/18/2018
Dr Subbanna MD
Dr Subbanna MD, Neurologist (MD)
Category: Neurology
Satisfied Customers: 6,422
Experience: American Board Certified Neurologist, Internal Medicine
Verified

Hi, I am an American Board Certified Neurologist with vast experience in diagnosing & treating all neurological as well as all other health/medical conditions, and I am very glad to help you with your health concerns.

I am sorry to hear you have experienced seizures during flight journeys. As a Neurologist I frequently diagnose & treat this type of health situation and I can certainly help you in this regard.

First I need to ask few questions so that I can gather more information related to your health concerns, kindly answer to these below posted questions, it will help me in gathering additional information related to your health concerns;

1) How old are you?

2) Have you ever had seizures other than these two occasions?

3) Any family history of seizures? Or any history of head injuries, brain infections such as meningitis or encephalitis etc in the past?

4) What type of seizures have you had?

5) Did the seizures occur in the early stages of plane travel, or during the later stage, or in between these?

6) Was a Doctor, especially a Neurologist in the clinic seen already? And any medical/neurological investigations have been done already? If yes, kindly provide me with the report of these medical/neurological investigations

7) And in relation to taking the above medications when did these seizures occur, immediately after taking the meds, or bit later, or lot later?

Kindly reply

Best Regards!

Dr Subbanna MD

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
I'm 65.
I've never had any seizures nor is there any family history of seizures.
The seizures occurred several hours into these long flights - about 4 hours in - I also passed out on another plane 2 years ago - no seizure then - flat down in front of the restroom.
I haven't seen a doctor since each of these incidents occurred.
The seizures occurred probably a few hours - 2-3 hours - after taking the meds.

Okay I see. I appreciate for all these additional information. I am preparing & typing my answer now, and I will post my answer here as soon as it is ready. Typing may take few minutes and I will follow up with you and post my answer here the moment I finish with my typing.

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I am almost done with my typing; I will follow up with you at the earliest.

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Okay I am ready; I am posting my answer here;

Once again I am sorry to hear these occurred during the flight journeys

Coming to the discussion; please see, flight journeys do carry a slight increased risk for seizures

In fact any out of ordinary experience can rarely trigger seizures

During flight journeys such out of ordinary experiences tend to occur more often or more frequently compared to other regular or ground travels and this may increase the seizure risk slightly

In general the following are the various seizure triggers and these can trigger or precipitate the onset of a seizures (not all the below are applicable in your case, I am just giving a list of various seizures triggers);

Missing seizure medications/stopping seizure meds abruptly, or taking smaller dose of seizure meds than what is actually recommended

Sleep deprivation (lack of adequate sleep)

Food deprivation (missing food - hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose)

Dehydration

Infections/fever

Electrolyte disturbances

Stress

Smoking cigarettes, marijuana

Certain types of computer or video light/flashes

Intake of alcohol, or other toxins and medications etc that can cause lowering of seizure threshold etc

As mentioned earlier above too - not all of the above seizures triggers are not applicable in you, for example you were not already on any seizure meds, nor have you mentioned about any fever, or intake of alcohol or smoking or marijuana etc, the above is just a general list of various seizures triggers and all the above triggers are not applicable in your case.

As mentioned earlier the above list is a general list of various seizure triggers and the following are the seizures triggers that can occur specifically during a flight journey;

The high altitude

The aircraft noise

Sleep deprivation (lack of adequate sleep) – especially long haul journeys

Food deprivation (missing food - hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose)

Dehydration

Electrolyte disturbances

Stress

Certain types of computer or video light/flashes

Intake of alcohol

Intake of medications etc that can cause lowering of seizure threshold etc

As you see there are multiple seizure triggers that can occur during plane journey

Of course, once again not all of the above may be applicable in your case but the above are the various possibilities, for example you have not mentioned any alcohol intake etc, so such triggers may not be applicable in your case.

Coming to the intake of meds, ambien is not known to cause seizures when you are using it, if you had been taking it for long time and then if you stop it abruptly then it may cause seizures and this is due to withdrawal from the medication, so it is not taking of ambien that triggers seizures rather stopping taking ambien if someone had been taking it for long

As far as Sudafed is concerned, it can rarely trigger seizures

So for Sudafed it appears it is one or more of the above mentioned seizures triggers in combination with this medication that triggered seizures

But we cannot tell the same thing when it comes to Ambien because ambien is not known to cause seizures, so it is possible the other trigger factors that can occur during long flight journeys are the main culprits in your case and medication such as sudafed acting as a secondary trigger

I am telling the medication acting as a secondary seizure trigger because ambien should not cause seizures, so as you have also correctly guessed - it indeed appears it is a combination of various seizures triggers that can normally occur during long flight journey and medication that is triggering the seizures, rather than the medications alone.

This is because if medication alone causing seizures then during the flight journey when you used ambien you should not have had any seizures

So this indicates, as you have also guessed it is a combination of the flight journey + medication that is the culprit

If you have not been properly investigated in this regard then seeing a neurologist is recommended now, so that you can receive a thorough neurological examination followed by certain seizure related investigations such as the following;

An brain MRI scan

An EEG (study of the brain waves) etc

And additional investigations such as MRA (MR Angiogram), Tilt table test and certain other investigations are also necessary since on another occassiona you had passed out during flight journey

The above methodical & meticulous approach can help us further and tell us whether there are any other causes or other explanations for these seizures and episode of passing out, and then treated appropriately depending upon the test results.

Once again to your main question, yes, you have a very valid point, it appears the flight journey and medication combination is triggering these seizures, although since ambien does not cause seizures so we also need to explore other possibilities too, in this regard seeing a neurologist in the clinic and undergoing above mentioned thorough evaluation and investigations can help in ruling out any other possibilities and then treated appropriately, and in the meantime please try to avoid as many seizure triggers as possible during flight journeys and this can help you in preventing future seizures & episodes such as passing out occurring.

Wishing you the best health!

All the very best!

Please let me know if you have any additional questions or if you want to discuss this further. And please take a moment and kindly click a positive rating (preferably 5 Star/Excellent) to credit for the time & effort put by me in answering your health question, and this is the only way I will be credited for my service to you. Rating me now does not close your question and if you have follow-up or additional questions you can ask them after the rating too!

Assuring you the best services!

Best Regards!

Dr Subbanna MD

Dr Subbanna MD
Dr Subbanna MD, Neurologist (MD)
Category: Neurology
Satisfied Customers: 6,422
Experience: American Board Certified Neurologist, Internal Medicine
Verified
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