Understanding Epilepsy
Inside the brain
Risks & Causes
Talk to your Specialist
Whether you’re newly diagnosed or a person living with seizures for some time, knowledge is crucial for successful epilepsy treatment. By knowing the facts, talking to your neurologist or epileptologist, and connecting with others with epilepsy, you can work toward seizure freedom and living your life on your own terms.
Epilepsy Risks and Causes
Can epilepsy be prevented?
Yes and no. Head injuries that result from sports or other accidents can cause epilepsy, but they are often preventable. Help avoid sports-related and bike injuries to the head by wearing helmets. Seat belt use can help prevent head injuries associated with motor vehicle accidents. However, epilepsy can also occur without injury, or it can be hereditary or genetic. In fact, in most cases, the causes are unknown and many researchers are still exploring the reasons why some people have epilepsy.
Can epilepsy be inherited?
Certain types of epilepsy are more likely to be inherited than others. Primary generalized epilepsy, in which the seizures begin from both sides of the brain at the same time, are more likely to involve genetic factors than partial epilepsy, in which the seizures arise from a limited area of the brain.
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Seizure Risks and Causes
What are common causes of seizures?
Some seizures, particularly those in generalized epilepsy, are a result of a complicated genetic inheritance. Others, mainly in focal epilepsy, are caused by some process that interferes with the normal function of one or more parts of the brain. Sometimes the cause for seizures cannot be found.
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What increases the risk of having a seizure?
If you have epilepsy, the following may trigger a seizure:
  • stress
  • excitement
  • getting overtired
  • excess alcohol
  • sleep or on awakening
  • hormone changes
What causes seizures in different age groups?
  • Seizures that occur early in life usually result from problems before birth
  • Many seizures in children are related to complex genetic causes or to infection, which partly explains the higher rate of convulsions in younger children with high fevers
  • Head injury can cause seizures at any age but is most likely in young adults
  • Brain tumors are an important cause of seizures in adults
  • Cerebrovascular events—such as stroke—are a common cause of new seizures late in life
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I have epilepsy, are there things I can do to reduce the risk of seizures?
If you have epilepsy and are experiencing seizures, you can help reduce the risk of a seizure by:
  • Taking medication as prescribed by your doctor
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Avoiding stress
  • Seeing your neurologist or epileptologist
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