Are Rick Ross' seizures from sleep deprivation?

Rick Ross has had his third seizure in six months, causing him to cancel his Guyana concert. Last fall, he cited exhaustion from sleep deprivation as the reason for the episodes.

Typically, however, in order for lack of sleep to lead to seizures, he would have to have an underlying seizure disorder like epilepsy.

Epilepsy can develop at any age, and afflicts 2.5 million Americans. It is diagnosed using an EEG, a test that shows electrical spikes when the brain has abnormal activity.

In the absence of this condition — which Ross has never mentioned he has — other causes are more likely.

Seizures occur when the electricity in a certain part of the brain goes haywire, and they can vary greatly. Seizures can be a dramatic shaking of the entire body or more subtle twitches of one part of the body — like the hand or corner of the mouth.

Outside of epilepsy, anything that throws off the brain’s electrical circuit can cause a seizure to occur. Here’s a look at the more common ones:

Alcohol withdrawal

Someone who drinks alcohol on a regular basis and then stops abruptly can withdraw from alcohol. On a mild level, withdrawal causes shaking tremors, and at its worst, hallucinations, seizures or death.

Cocaine or other illegal drugs

Use of illicit drugs can cause seizures. Cocaine is the biggest culprit. It raises the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, seizures and stroke.

At any point, as many as 40 percent of cocaine users can have a seizure, especially in overdose.

Seizures from cocaine are usually from intravenous or crack cocaine, and do not leave lasting problems. Those caused from sniffing cocaine have a greater risk of complications, even with small amounts of cocaine.

Withdrawal from sedatives called benzodiapines — such as Xanax (alprazolam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Klonopin (clonazepam) — can also cause fatal seizures when a user abruptly stops taking them.

Low blood sugar in diabetic patients

When people with diabetes take too much medication, or don’t eat enough after taking their medication, they can have dangerous drops in blood sugar that cause seizures or even stroke-like symptoms.

The symptoms resolve after the patients ingest something with sugar, or the paramedics or doctors give the patient sugar intravenously.

Although Ross — on his song “Usual Suspects” — says “all I got was diabetes and a damn hug,” his camp has never confirmed that the artist has diabetes. In fact, most reports surrounding his two prior seizures say he is in generally good health.

Certain prescription and over-the-counter drugs

There’s a long list of medications and herbs that make seizures more likely to happen. Most cause electrolyte abnormalities or disrupt levels of vitamins in the blood.

In particular, the antidepressant Wellbutrin (sertraline) and many weight loss drugs have often been implicated.

Although touted as safer, herbal supplements and over-the-counter drugs are equally as risky. Pseudoephedrine, for example (also sold as Sudafed, or the “D” in Allegra-D and Claritin-D), when taken in excess can lead to seizures.

Tumor or aneurysm

The symptoms of a brain tumor depends on the part of the brain involved. Seizure is most common with tumors of the temporal lobe — the area of the brain around the temples. The tumors themselves can trigger seizure activity, but when the brain swells around the tumor, it is even more likely.

Less likely causes of seizures include high fever, brain infection or brain damage from strokes, surgery or head injury.

Ultimately, there are many causes of seizures. And sometimes, doctors never find out the reason, especially if they only happen once. However, there is a lack of evidence linking seizures with sleep deprivation outside of disorders like epilepsy.

Note: If you suspect someone is having a seizure, roll them onto their side and never put anything into their mouths. Call 911 as soon as possible.

Follow Dr. Ty on Twitter at @doctorty

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