Epileptic Seizure Causes

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Epilepsy is the general term used to describe a condition where people suffer from seizures. In many cases, the exact cause of this condition is not known and no trigger for a seizure can be identified.

However, some common triggers of epilepsy that have been identified include:

Prolonged Sleep Deprevation
In many individuals with epilepsy, sleep deprivation for prolonged periods may precipitate seizures.

Injury or trauma
Injury or trauma to the head that causes brain damage can cause recurrent seizures and is referred to as post-traumatic epilepsy.

Certain Drugs and Medicine
Certain drugs of abuse and medications that act on the central nervous system may precipitate seizures. The seizure threshold may be lowered with the use of certain drugs such as tricyclic antidepressants. Also, stopping the use of certain drugs or alcohol may result in withdrawal symptoms, one of which may be seizure. Examples of drugs that could cause seizures if stopped suddenly include antiepileptic drugs, antidepressants and tranquilizers such as benzodiazepines or barbiturates.

Other triggers

  • High fever in some children may lead to convulsions or seizures called febrile convulsions.
  • Disorders that affect the cavernous sinus, a blood-filled space that contains the carotid artery may cause headaches, brain haemorrhages and seizures.
  • A condition called cerebral arteriovenous malformation, a deformity of the arteries and veins in the brain, commonly causes headaches and seizures.
  • A severe fall in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or a severe lack of oxygen in the body (hypoxia) can lead to seizures.
  • Neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis may also cause seizures.
  • Brain tumours, cancers and abscesses may also increase the risk of seizures by causing blockages and a build up of fluid in the brain referred to as hydrocephalus, which is a common cause of seizures.
  • Brain damage caused by stroke can lead to epilepsy and is more likely to occur in a person who has suffered a hemorrhagic stroke rather than an ischemic stroke.
  • Brain infections such as meningitis and encephalitis can provoke seizures.

Reviewed by , BSc

Sources

  1. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tutorials/seizuresandepilepsy/nr049103.pdf
  2. https://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/getinvolved/upload/181TOS.pdf
  3. http://www.who.int/mental_health/neurology/Epilepsy_disorder_rev1.pdf
  4. http://www.epilepsy.com/pdfs/what_is_a_seizure.pdf
  5. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/ppt/icd9/att2BarkleySep08.pdf

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jan 14, 2014

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