Healthy Living

Causes of Epilepsy

Causes of Epilepsy

Key Takeaways

  • A seizure is the result of an electrical activity disturbance in the brain.
  • Risk factors for epilepsy include age, family history, etc.
  • Status epilepticus and sudden unexplained death in epilepsy are uncommon complications of epilepsy.

Epilepsy, also classified as seizure disorder, is a neurological disorder affecting the nervous system. A seizure is the result of electrical activity disturbance in the brain.

There is no single cause for epilepsy for about half of the population with this condition. In other cases, the cause of epilepsy is due to the following factors:

  • Head trauma that resulted from traumatic injuries like car accidents can cause epilepsy.
  • Genetic influence – some types of epilepsy tend to run in the family. Thus, a genetic influence can be the root cause for the occurrence of epilepsy.
  • Brain conditions – these conditions cause brain damage. Some of the brain conditions that can cause epilepsy are stroke and brain tumors. The leading cause of epilepsy in adults who are 35 and above is stroke.
  • Prenatal injury – infants are vulnerable to brain injuries before birth. Poor nutrition, oxygen deficiencies and an infection from the mother can lead to damage of the brain. As a result, epilepsy occurs.
  • Infectious diseases – AIDS, viral encephalitis and meningitis are infectious diseases which can lead to epilepsy.
  • Developmental disorders – Neurofibromatosis and autism are some of the developmental disorders associated with epilepsy. 

Risk Factors

There are factors which can increase the risk of developing epilepsy:

  • Family history
  • Age – epilepsy can happen at any age, but commonly occurs in early childhood as well as after 60 years old
  • Head injuries
  • Dementia – older adults are at a higher risk due to dementia
  • Vascular diseases like strokes – these diseases can result in brain damage that could trigger the development of epilepsy. Limiting alcohol intake, healthy diet, regular exercise and avoiding cigarettes can decrease this risk.
  • Childhood seizures – seizures in childhood are sometimes associated with a high fever, but it does not mean that these children will develop epilepsy in the future. However, if the seizure lasts longer, the risk is higher.
  • Brain infections – inflammation in the brain as well as spinal cord increases the risk of epilepsy

Having a seizure is dangerous and can be life-threatening. It can sometimes lead to situations that can harm your life as well as others. The following are complications of epilepsy:

  • Falling – a seizure attack can lead to head injury or fractures
  • Vehicular accidents – it is dangerous for people with epilepsy to drive or operate vehicles as some types of epilepsy can cause a loss of consciousness
  • Drowning – people with epilepsy are 15 to 19 times more susceptible to drowning, as compared to normal people
  • Complications during pregnancy – a pregnant woman with epilepsy poses danger not only to herself but also to her baby. In addition, anti-epileptic drugs can increase the risk of birth defects. There’s no need to worry if you have epilepsy and you plan on getting pregnant. Discuss your plan and condition with your doctor. Doing so can help you have a healthy pregnancy and baby.
  • Emotional issues – many people with epilepsy also experience psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. Serious cases can also lead to suicide. These issues are the result of medication side effects, as well as difficulty dealing with the condition.

Status epilepticus and sudden unexplained death in epilepsy are other complications of epilepsy. These complications may be uncommon but these could still happen.