What Causes Epilepsy?

The Most Common Reasons People Develop Epilepsy Today

Epilepsy is a somewhat mysterious condition that researchers have been studying for a very long time. It causes problems with the signals in the brain that can result in seizures or even periods of strange behavior. Very little is known about the underlying mechanisms related to epilepsy. Progress is being made all the time. Here are some of the most common reasons people develop epilepsy today.

Heredity and Genetics

A major cause of certain types of epilepsy has to do with your genes. Genetics passed down through your family can cause you to develop epilepsy. This is unavoidable since nothing can be done about heredity. This is a factor only for specific types of epilepsy, however. Hundreds of different gene sequences are thought to contribute to the disease. Genetics might also cause you to have more severe symptoms and triggers.

Injuries to the Head and Brain

Epilepsy can sometimes be caused by injuries to the head and brain as the result of an accident. This does not occur very often. Someone who sustains head trauma during a car accident or a long fall could recover with epilepsy. The reason is that specific types of damage to the brain can cause signals to be confused or sent to the wrong place. A specific combination of damage leads to epilepsy even if the person had no symptoms or risk factors before the accident.

Certain Types of Infections

Certain types of infections that attack the brain and the nervous system have been known to cause epilepsy in a small percentage of people. These are infections like acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS, meningitis and potentially even hepatitis. The infections destroy the nervous system and make it more difficult for the brain to function normally on an internal level. These factors can cause epilepsy to develop.

Existing Medical Conditions Involving the Brain

People who have existing medical conditions involving the brain can possibly develop epilepsy without any warning. Doctors usually try to monitor for epileptic symptoms in these cases. These conditions include things like degenerative brain disorders, brain tumors due to cancer and even parasitic attacks on the brain. Each will slowly degrade the functioning of the brain. Epilepsy might appear during that time in a severe form.

Damage Before Birth

Fetuses go through a very specific developmental process while growing in the womb. That process can be disrupted by a number of things inside the body, within the environment or from genetics. Damage to a fetus prior to birth can cause epilepsy if it affects the brain or nearby portions of the nervous system. This means the baby will be born with epilepsy from the start. There is a chance that the epilepsy will fade and go away as the child grows up.

Developmental Disorders

Some people today are born with developmental disorders. These are conditions that prevent the brain or body from developing in the expected way. People with these disorders could end up with brains or nervous systems that have not fully matured or connected in the proper way. Individuals born with developmental disorders are more likely to suffer from epilepsy than those who are not. The developmental disorders that cause this are generally the ones directly affecting the brain such as neurofibromatosis and autism.


A final very common cause of epilepsy today is having a stroke. A stroke puts the brain under tremendous stress. Stokes can cause permanent brain damage or can change the way the brain is functioning. A possible result of a stroke is epilepsy. This is especially true if you have a stroke after age 35. The epilepsy caused by a stroke is likely to be permanent. It can sometimes be very severe depending on the individual circumstances and nature of the stroke.

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