What Causes Epilepsy?

Woman with signs of Epilepsy

This guide is brought to you by the experts at Premier Neurology of Stuart, FL for Epilepsy Month. We explore the different causes of epilepsy and how each one can affect you. If you or a loved one suffers from epilepsy, schedule your appointment with an experienced team of professionals who can offer insight, support, and solutions. 

What Are Seizures?

A seizure is a sudden burst of electrical activity between brain cells that spreads to neighboring areas in the brain and creates an uncontrolled storm of electrical activity. These electrical impulses can be transmitted to the muscles, causing twitches, convulsions, stiffness, or limpness. It can cause changes in one’s behavior, movements, or feelings, and affect their level of consciousness. People typically associate seizures with epilepsy.

What Is Epilepsy?

While not everyone who experiences a seizure has epilepsy, epilepsy is a condition that is characterized by unprovoked, recurring seizures. Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder and affects an estimated 65 million people globally. Anyone of any race, age, or gender can develop epilepsy. The symptoms of epileptic seizures greatly vary depending on the individual affected.

What Are The Types Of Seizures?

  • Focal seizures are also called “partial seizures” because they begin in one area of the brain. Studies show that 1 in 2 people with focal seizures can attribute the cause to trauma, stroke, or meningitis. People who experience partial seizures may lose consciousness, or stay alert as they experience them.

  • Generalized-onset seizures or “generalized seizures” often involve all parts of the brain. Depending on the individual, they can range from a brief, sudden lapse in attention; to stiffness in the muscles that restricts movement; to a loss of consciousness and shaking of the body.

What Causes Epilepsy?

1. In some cases, epilepsy can be hereditary. In some people with generalized seizures, for example, epilepsy has a genetic component. It is worth noting that only a statistically small number of people who experience generalized seizures also have family members who experience generalized seizures. Sleep deprivation and binge drinking are said to be potential triggers for people who experience generalized seizures.

2. Infection is the most common cause of epilepsy worldwide. Tuberculosis, bacterial meningitis, and cerebral malaria are some infectious diseases that are associated with causing epilepsy.

3. Epilepsy can have autoimmune causes when someone has a history of cancer or an autoimmune disease, such as Grave’s disease, Crohn’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or ulcerative colitis. A sudden and severe onset of seizures can be an indicator that a patient’s epilepsy can have an autoimmune cause.

4. Some types of epilepsy are linked to metabolic disorders, which are usually inherited genetically. Symptoms usually present in infancy or early childhood.

5. Structural causes refer to epilepsy that is caused by an abnormality in the structure of the brain. These structural causes can be congenital conditions that someone is born with, or acquired causes, such as head injury, stroke, or a brain tumor.

What Are Common Causes Of Epilepsy By Age?

Epilepsy In Newborns

In newborns, epilepsy can be caused by a lack of oxygen during birth, problems with metabolism, maternal drug use, bleeding in the brain, or insufficient levels of sugar, calcium, or magnesium in their bloodstream.

Epilepsy In Children & Toddlers

In babies and small children, epilepsy can be induced by fever, infections, or brain tumors. As discussed, some episodes are reactive to certain situations. Regardless of the situation, if your child is experiencing epileptic episodes, 

Epilepsy In Children & Adults

Children and adults may have epilepsy brought on by head trauma, brain disease, genetic factors, or congenital conditions such as Down’s syndrome, neurofibromatosis, or tuberous sclerosis.

Epilepsy In Older Adults

Older adults may have epilepsy as a result of head trauma, stroke, or Alzheimer’s disease. If diagnosed with epilepsy, it may be pertinent to find help or a solution for care in case of injury.