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.
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 2014To be reviewed July 2017