Epilepsy is a rather broad terminology for a group of symptoms that has one thing in common, seizures that arise in the brain. As such, there is a broad range of potential causes that can lead to a person being diagnosed with epilepsy.
Causes of epilepsy can be incredibly complex and are often difficult to identify, with many people unsure of the cause. In fact, it’s only within the minority of cases that the cause is apparent with up to 70% of all cases having no clear cause.
Genetics can play a role in epilepsy. Many people are born with epilepsy as a genetic defect that has been passed down from one or both parents, also known as inherited epilepsy. However, it’s not always inherited, epilepsy can be caused by a genetic mutation where there is no family history of epilepsy.
Genetic disorders, such as tuberous sclerosis or neurofibromatosis can also be an underlying cause of epilepsy. Both of these disorders can cause tumours on the brain and nerves that can create a structural change to the brain.
Some researchers believe that the cause of epilepsy is always genetic on some level and that a person may be predisposed to seizures. If true, this means that there are people who are more susceptible to developing epilepsy, even if it happens later on in life. It’s believed that there is a scale where people can range from high to low risk.
Often a person will develop epilepsy as the result of a brain injury, this is known as a structural or symptomatic change to the brain’s chemistry. This could be caused by a head injury. Seizures will usually start to occur during the first week after a person sustains a brain injury, however, it’s not entirely uncommon for a person to start having seizures months or even years after. In many cases, seizures will become less frequent with time, although for some it can be much more long term.
Infections, such as meningitis, as well as strokes and tumours can also be a structural change that results in the development of epilepsy. All of these can create structural and lasting changes to the brain that can be the basis of a person developing epilepsy.
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