What are the Causes of Epilepsy?

Laura A.
Laura A.
Some cases of epilepsy can be linked to alcoholism.
Some cases of epilepsy can be linked to alcoholism.

Epilepsy is a rare but potentially life-threatening disorder related to neurological imbalances in the brain. The cause of epilepsy is unknown in about half of people who suffer from it. Some common causes of epilepsy include genetics, illness, head injury and poor lifestyle choices.

The main symptom of epilepsy is seizures. A seizure is an episode of increased electrical activity in the brain that causes a temporary loss of motor control and sensory function. During a seizure, a person might experience convulsions, shaking, confusion, or difficulty breathing. A person who has had at least two unexplained seizures is said to have epilepsy.

Epilepsy can cause abnormalities in the electrical signals in the brain, so often doctors use an electroencephalogram (EEG) to diagnose it.
Epilepsy can cause abnormalities in the electrical signals in the brain, so often doctors use an electroencephalogram (EEG) to diagnose it.

One of the most common causes of epilepsy is a chemical imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Some people are born with this problem. For others, it develops later in life as a result of injury, illness or lifestyle. Many of the treatments available for epilepsy involve stimulating the production of these neurotransmitters so the brain can function properly again.

Some types of epilepsy run in families. A genetic abnormality in the way the brain processes certain chemicals such as calcium or sodium can be passed down to an epileptic person’s children. A type of epilepsy called myoclonus epilepsy is caused by the absence of a gene that breaks down protein. People with some types of severe epilepsy are missing a gene that helps break down carbohydrates.

A head injury can affect the brain and cause a person to develop epilepsy. This usually only happens with more severe head injuries. Head injuries during birth are one of the leading causes of epilepsy in babies. Epilepsy might not show up until years after the injury occurred.

Environmental factors also can lead to epilepsy. Illegal drug use can alter the chemical composition of the brain in a way that causes epilepsy and seizures. Sometimes exposure to toxins at work such as lead and carbon monoxide can result in epilepsy. Other causes of epilepsy related to lifestyle are alcoholism and withdrawal from antidepressants.

Certain types of illnesses that affect the brain can cause epilepsy as well. Alzheimer’s disease may change the brain chemistry significantly enough to cause seizures. A brain tumor can also interfere with the normal workings of the brain. Among the leading causes of epilepsy in older patients are cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks and strokes that temporarily cut off the brain’s supply of oxygen. Encephalitis, meningitis and other infectious diseases are also causes of epilepsy in some people.

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    • Some cases of epilepsy can be linked to alcoholism.
      By: kmiragaya
      Some cases of epilepsy can be linked to alcoholism.
    • Epilepsy can cause abnormalities in the electrical signals in the brain, so often doctors use an electroencephalogram (EEG) to diagnose it.
      By: Tobilander
      Epilepsy can cause abnormalities in the electrical signals in the brain, so often doctors use an electroencephalogram (EEG) to diagnose it.