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Online clinic on epilepsy - May 2014

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living with epilepsy

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Caffeine addiction and epilepsy

Postby blackalaro on Thu May 22, 2014 6:50 pm


I'm a sufferer of absence seizures but not currently on medication. However during this time I found that caffeine prevents my seizures but I am becoming dependent on caffeine as a result. Is this a good enough treatment or is it just as harmful, long term, as the conventional drug treatment?

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Re: Caffeine addiction and epilepsy

Postby Andrew Kelso on Thu May 22, 2014 7:32 pm

Dear blackalaro

That's a new one on me! No-one's ever asked me that before.

I'll admit I've just gone and done a very quick bit of research. From a preliminary look at the scientific literature, there seems to be no consensus on the effects of caffeine on seizures and epilepsy. It seems unlikely that caffeine is an effective or reliable treatment.

However, in general, caffeine is likely to be associated with a lot of other health problems. In particular, abnormal heart rhythms can be triggered by excessive caffeine use, and can be very unpleasant (and occasionally serious). Other undesirable effects could include sleep problems, anxiety, and headache.

I'd recommend that you discuss treatment of your absence seizures with an epilepsy specialist. You might not want to take medication all the time, but there may be options for you, including some anti-epileptic drugs that can be taken from time to time (e.g. if you wanted to control seizures on a particular day). Alternatively, there may well be new drugs available for the management of absence seizures that weren't available the last time you tried something.

Red Bull may give you wings, but I wouldn't recommend it as a treatment for epilepsy.
Dr Andrew Kelso
Consultant Neurologist at Barts Health NHS Trust
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