October 26, 2020

Why Do People Get Epilepsy?

About Epilepsy

Did you know that 3.4 million people in the US have epilepsy? That makes it the 4th most prevalent neurological (brain) disorder in the country.

Whether you have had epilepsy all your life or have only just been diagnosed, it’s useful to know why people may develop the condition. There isn’t just ‘one’ kind of epilepsy. Instead, there are many different types, causes and symptoms of epilepsy.

Here are some of the more common reasons why people get epilepsy.

Causes of epilepsy

Epilepsy affects people of all ages, genders, races and income brackets and it can develop for a wide variety of reasons:

- Unknown causes: About half of the time, doctors do not know why a person has epilepsy
- Genetics: There are three ways that genetics can play a role in the development of epilepsy:

1. The disorder is inherited with the risk that a child will have epilepsy is only slightly higher than with unaffected parents;

2. The person has a genetic mutation (a random change in a person’s genes);

3. The person may inherit a disease that changes the structure of the brain which may indirectly lead to epilepsy (this happens in 30% of persons with epilepsy)

- Head injuries: sports injuries, car accidents and falls which cause head trauma may lead to people developing epilepsy
- Infections: certain illnesses that affect the brain are another potential cause
- Strokes, Alzheimer’s and dementia: illnesses which affect the brain as we get older may also cause epilepsy
- Development disorders: how the brain matures can be linked to epilepsy

It is a good idea to speak with your treatment team to learn more.  Even if the specific cause of your seizures is unknown, it is important to remember that effective treatment still exists.