Former 'Bachelorette' Star's Health Scare: What Causes Seizures?

Trista Sutter and Ryan Sutter in 2011
Trista Sutter and Ryan Sutter in 2011 (Image credit: Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

Reality TV star Trista Sutter, who starred in the first season of ABC's "The Bachelorette," in 2003, recently suffered a seizure while on vacation. But what makes a person suddenly experience a seizure?

On Friday (June 2), Sutter posted a photo on her Instagram feed in which she's lying in a hospital bed. "This was me yesterday. ...two hours after I had a seizure. ...two hours after I fell on my daughter's chest & she watched, along with her brother & grandparents, in confusion & horror as her mommy stared blankly off into the distance & started turning blue," Sutter wrote in the caption. Sutter was on vacation in Croatia with her family when the seizure happened.

Sutter went on to say that, instead of the adventure she had planned, "I ended up in a Croatian hospital being poked and prodded and wondering 'why me?' But today, I had to ask, 'why not me'? I'm human." [10 Celebrities with Chronic Illnesses]

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Most seizures happen as a result of abnormal electrical activity in the brain, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Sometimes, a person's seizure may not be noticeable to others, or a person may appear to stare into space for a few moments while he or she has a seizure. In other cases, a seizure may cause a person to suddenly fall and experience uncontrollable muscle spasms, according to the NIH.

Seizures can have many causes. These include chemical imbalances in the body, genetic factors, brain problems that occur before birth, and brain infections, according to John Hopkins School of Medicine. In other cases, seizures can be "provoked" by certain factors, such as head trauma, brain tumors, drug abuse or a stroke.

Still, in some cases, no cause of the seizure can be found, and these are known as idiopathic seizures, the NIH says.

People may be diagnosed with epilepsy if they have recurrent seizures that are not caused by another medical condition, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. Patients may undergo several tests — such as blood tests, brain imaging and an electroencephalogram (EEG) — to determine whether they have epilepsy or another condition that caused their seizure, the NIH says.

About 20 percent of people who are referred for treatment at epilepsy centers have what are known as nonepileptic seizures, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. These seizures are caused not by abnormal electrical activity in the brain but rather psychological factors, such as thoughts, emotions or stress.

It is important to note that nonepileptic seizures are a real condition, and that people who experience nonepileptic seizures do not have voluntary control over having them, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Sutter did not discuss the cause of her seizure. She has posted several more photos to her Instagram since the incident, suggesting she is doing better. One photo of her and her husband had a caption that read, "Today was a good day. #grateful."

Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.