Why Do People Get Epilepsy?

  • June 5, 2020
  • 4
In this article
A doctor explaining what causes epilepsy

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

It’s always useful to keep learning about your condition. So, what causes epilepsy?

What can cause epilepsy?

To understand what causes epilepsy, it’s important to know what ‘epilepsy’ actually means. 

Epilepsy is a word that describes a wide variety of brain disorders. There isn’t just ‘one’ kind of epilepsy. Instead, there are many different types and symptoms.The one thing they all have in common is that they involve sudden, unpredictable discharges of electricity in the brain. This abnormal electrical activity causes seizures. Seizures can vary from ‘mild’ auras which make you feel strange for a short while, right up to severe and repeated tonic clonic events. 

‍Epilepsy affects people of all ages, genders, races and income brackets. 

Main causes of epilepsy

The main causes of epilepsy include:

1. Unknown causes: About half of the time, doctors do not know why a person has epilepsy

2. Genetics: There are three ways that genetics can play a role in the development of epilepsy:

  • The disorder is inherited (passed down from parents)
  • The person has a genetic mutation (a random change in the ‘code’ which programs how the person will be)
  • The person may inherit a disease that changes the structure of the brain which may indirectly lead to epilepsy

3. Head injuries: Sports injuries, car accidents and falls which cause head trauma may lead to people developing epilepsy. Any damage to the brain could affect how electric signals are sent between brain cells. 

4. Infections: Certain illnesses that affect the brain are another potential cause, including meningitis, malaria and HIV.

5. Strokes, Alzheimer’s and dementia: Illnesses which can affect the brain as we get older may also cause epilepsy.

6. Development disorders: How the brain matures can be linked to seizures.

If you’re unsure about why you’re having seizures, speak to your neurologist or an epileptologist. They may be able to explain what caused your epilepsy. ‍

FAQ: what causes epilepsy?

Can epilepsy be caused from brain trauma?

Yes, brain traumas are an important factor in causing epilepsy for many people. 

Can high fever cause epilepsy? 

Not normally. Febrile seizures sometimes happen to babies where they get a high temperature and begin having a seizure. In the majority of cases this does not lead to epilepsy in later life. 

A high fever on its own (such as from having influenza) will not make someone have epilepsy. If the fever is caused by certain diseases, such as cerebral malaria, there is a risk that it could cause brain damage and lead to epilepsy. But in this case it’s the disease - not the fever itself - that causes the epilepsy. 

Can mold cause epilepsy?

No, mold doesn’t cause epilepsy. There is some evidence that mold can make people unwell in certain ways, and it may even cause seizure-like symptoms in a small number of people. There is relatively little evidence for this link. 

Can a stroke cause epilepsy?

Yes, strokes damage the brain and kill brain cells. This could result in the person having seizures. Find out the differences between seizures and a stroke here.

Can heat stroke cause epilepsy?

No, if a person is otherwise healthy and did not already have seizures, heat stroke will not make them start having epilepsy. On the other hand, people who do have seizures sometimes notice that high temperatures are a seizure trigger

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