Developing epilepsy later on in life

13th December 2018

Epilepsy can be developed at any stage of life, however, it’s most common that it will be developed in later life, which is classed as those over the age of 65. In fact, as many as 1 in 4 of the newly diagnosed will fall into the over 65’s category.

If you think you may have symptoms of epilepsy, it’s critical that you see a healthcare professional as soon as possible. There are a number of other conditions that can be mistaken for epilepsy, such as low blood pressure and low blood sugar, also a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) or ‘mini-stroke’ can be commonly mistaken for a seizure.

Why does epilepsy develop in later life?

Developing epilepsy can be due to a number of causes, many of which are commonly experienced as you grow older. Blood vessels that supply the brain with blood and oxygen become narrower. Most causes are cerebrovascular, which means a change or damage to the blood vessels around the brain. It’s just one of those aspects of growing older.

It’s also possible that if you have had epilepsy your entire life that your seizures may increase in frequency and severity as you grow older. This is why it’s important to have annual reviews to ensure your medication is optimised as you grow older.


If you have only just developed epilepsy, your biggest concern might be how seizures will affect your life. There are many types of seizures. Tonic-clonic seizures cause the person to convulse and lose consciousness. Tonic-clonic is perhaps the type of seizure that most people think of, however, it’s also the least likely to be experienced by those who develop epilepsy later on in life.

Focal seizures are the most likely, causing the person to feel confused, disoriented and experience memory loss. As these symptoms can all be experienced by people due to older age they can be more difficult to detect and easily misdiagnosed with other conditions. It’s also worth noting that focal seizures can develop into tonic-clonic seizures.

Treatment and prognosis

There are many different types of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) available, it’s likely that you will be prescribed one based on the type of epilepsy you have and the seizures you experience. Each medication has its own side effects that your neurologist will take into account. For example, some epilepsy medications can cause your bones to become thinner, which may put an older person at risk of breaking bones more easily.

If you lived independently before developing epilepsy, there is no reason why you couldn’t continue to do so. However, it’s likely that you may have to make some changes to your living environment to ensure you continue to do so safely. You may have to make other changes to your lifestyle too, such as driving.

National Epilepsy Training can help

For more information living with epilepsy later on in life or to enquire about our care services, call us on 01706 373075 or email