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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 3 comments or add yours


Hi Michaleena

Thanks for your message. I can understand your concern about your lab results. However, the issues with your liver may or may not be related to your epilepsy medicines. It is very important that you do not make any changes to your epilepsy medicine yourself, which could cause you to have more seizures. The best thing to do would be to discuss the lab results with your doctor, to see if there is a chance they might be related to your epilepsy medicines. If that is a possibility, then you should seek advice from your epilepsy specialist or epilepsy nurse to find out what steps to take next.

Our website talks about epilepsy treatment and medicines, which you might find helpful.

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

Yours sincerely

Sacha Wellborn

Advice and Information Team

Submitted by 37204 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