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Seizures introduction continued

Causes of epilepsy
When seizures start
When epilepsy has gone away
Seizure triggers

The causes of epilepsy

In around six out of 10 people, doctors don’t know the cause of their epilepsy. For many of these people, it seems that it is just something in the way they are made that makes them more likely to have seizures.

Some people do have a cause for their epilepsy. Sometimes it is caused by damage to parts of the brain which can be brought about by: 

  • A difficult birth
  • A brain infection, such as meningitis
  • A stroke
  • A serious brain injury

 You might have another condition where epilepsy is quite common. Two such conditions are tuberous sclerosis and cerebral palsy.

When seizures start

Seizures can start at any age, but are most common in children and older people. Certain seizure types are more likely to start at certain times of life. For example, children are more likely than adults to have absence seizures, and older people are more likely than children to have focal (partial) seizures.

When epilepsy has gone away

A person will no longer be considered to have epilepsy if they:

  • Had an epilepsy syndrome that only affects people of a certain age, but are now past that age. An example is benign rolandic epilepsy, or
  • Have not had a seizure for 10 years, and had no epilepsy medicine for five years

Seizure triggers

Some things make seizures more likely for some people with epilepsy. These are often called ‘triggers’. Triggers are things like stress, not sleeping well or drinking too much alcohol. Some people say they have more seizures if they miss meals. Not taking your epilepsy medicine is another common trigger. A small number of people with epilepsy have seizures triggered by lights that flash or flicker.

Not everyone has seizures triggers, but for those who do, avoiding triggers lowers the risk of having a seizure.

Epilepsy Action has more information about some common seizure triggers

If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. If you are unable to access the internet, please contact our Epilepsy Helpline by email at helpline@epilepsy.org.uk


Epilepsy Action wishes to thank Dr John Paul Leach, consultant neurologist, Honorary Clinical Associate Professor, Glasgow, UK for reviewing this information. 

This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.

  • Updated July 2014
    To be reviewed July 2017

Comments: read the 7 comments or add yours


I had a seizure at work a month ago my body went stiff but relaxed after 4 minutes my colleague told me i was at work yesterday and my hands started shaking and then i got a headache knew i had a seizure coming my colleague put me in a quite room on my own cant remember any thing after that my colleague said he found me on floor should he have left me

Submitted by ann marir on

Hi Ann
It would be good practice if someone, possibly the first aider, stayed with you until the seizure stopped and you are alert enough to look after yourself.

It would be advisable for your employer and yourself to work out a care plan. The information in the care plan can include what happens when you have a seizure and how people can help you during and afterwards.


Please feel free to download or use any of our information to help with your care plan.

If we can be of any more help, please feel free to contact us again, either by email or the Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050. 


Diane Wallace
Epilepsy Action Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Diane, Epilepsy... on

It's interesting that you say someone is no longer considered epileptic if they've not had a seizure for 10 years...

I woke up one morning 11 years ago, not knowing where I was or what day it was, and wet (though I didn't know why). Mum called the doctor out who said I was stressed and to take 2 days off work. (Mum said it was sweat not urine to the doctor but told me afterwards that I had wet the bed.) I was fine after that episode and never had any more problems.

Nearly 3 months ago, I woke tired so thought I'd rest a while before getting up. Then I felt something come towards me and had a fit. I thought I was conscious throughout this horrible experience (during which I realised I was hyperventilating, which was probably the scariest thing!), but then "came to" on the floor beside my bed so was confused about this, but realised I must have lost consciousness at some point.

I saw the neurologist last week who said it's "highly likely" I'm epileptic so he's going to send me for an EEG and MRI to have this confirmed. Unfortunately for me, I'm taking longer to recover this time and still have a "swimmy" head if I get tired. I'm assuming I'm taking longer to recover just because I'm in my late 30's now.

So am I highly unusual in the prospect of having gone 11 years without an episode or has something been "re-awakened" in me now I'm older and potentially more stressed?

Submitted by Julie on

hi I recently had to spend a week in hospital with seizures, it started whilst I was at work I remember not feeling right I had deja vu whilst at work then a headache one of my colleagues came up to me and said are you alright I said no and he went for the doctor who then took me to clinical room the doctor knew I was epileptic he told me after I came back to work what had happened when he had taken me to clinical room I had a seizure and was just coming round when I had another 2 seizures he called for an ambulance where I had another 2 seizures in ambulance then 1 in a and e and ct scanner they give me medication to stop them I had more on ward during the week they have changed my medication and I haven't had any more as it turned out I had 2 stressful weeks at work and the stress had caused them. work have now done a care plan for me I work in a community hospital hence doctor being there is there any thing I need to do to stop this reacurring please

Submitted by ann marie on

Hi Ann Marie

That sounds like a very distressing experience. I do hope you are starting to feel better now.

I wonder whether it was your regular neurologist who saw you in hospital? If not, it would be a good idea to check they know what has happened for you and what they feel about your medication change.

You will no doubt know about the various possible seizure triggers. Certainly it’s not easy for us to avoid stress. We have helpful tips in our information on epilepsy and wellbeing.

The main hope is that your epilepsy medicine will start to keep the seizures in check.

I hope this information is useful for you. But If we can be of any more help, please feel free to contact us again, either by email or the Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050.

Advice and Information Services Officer

Submitted by Cherry@Epilepsy... on