Medical dramas have popularised flickering lights as a cause of epilepsy. These are not the only stimuli causing seizures, though. In a recent development, medical professionals at New Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital have uncovered a unique case of epilepsy. The case was of a 9-year-old girl who experienced epileptic seizures triggered by mehendi (henna). The young patient reportedly suffered a seizure and fainted after applying henna to her hands. Doctors narrowed in on the smell of henna as the cause of her seizures. This has led to her condition being categorised as Reflex Epilepsy (RE).
This is a type of epilepsy that is triggered by things like light flashes, changes in vision, sounds, touch, or even mental processes. Some examples of triggers include looking away from or towards flickering bright light, getting hot water on your skin, or hearing music.
In the case of epilepsy caused by henna, the particular odour of mehendi activates certain brain regions involved in the generation of seizures. For the 9-year-old patient here, a similar occurrence had also taken place in 2019. According to doctors, the child experienced an “abrupt loss of consciousness, resulting in a fall and convulsions for 20 seconds" during her first episode, aged 6.
In the past, only a handful of seizures caused by the smell of henna have been reported. Why exactly henna triggered seizures in these patients remains unclear.
It is important to note that seizures triggered by specific stimuli, such as odours, lights, or sounds are relatively rare and occur in only a small percentage of individuals with epilepsy. In fact, studies show that the prevalence of Reflex Epilepsy ranges from 4 to 7 percent of all epilepsy patients. Usually, seizures are caused by a particular genetic combination, head injury, infections, and other neurological conditions,
For those who do suffer from seizures triggered by external stimuli, there are some courses of treatment and prevention available, including avoiding exposure to the triggers. In the case of this child, doctors advised parents to limit exposure and prescribed Sodium valproate.
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