Causes of Epilepsy

There are many possible causes of epilepsy such as:

  • Abnormality in brain structure and blood vessels in the brain.
  • Imbalance of neurotransmitters or the nerve signaling chemicals such as gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) and glutamate.
  • Changes in non-neuronal brain cells known as “neuroglia”. These can affect normal signaling patterns in the brain.
  • Head injury or trauma.
  • Strokes and heart attack can deprive the brain of oxygen and cause epilepsy.
  • Genetic factors are an important contributing factor. Abnormal or defective genes may cause some types of epilepsy syndromes. Genetics also increases a person chance of developing epilepsy.
  • Brain damage due to other disorders such as tumors, Alzheimer’s disease and even alcoholism.
  • Infectious diseases such as AIDS, meningitis and viral encephalitis can cause a build-up of fluid in the brain and affect normal functioning.
  • Intolerance to wheat gluten can lead to epilepsy.
  • Parasitic infections of the brain such as neurocysticercosis.
  • Metabolic and developmental disorders such as cerebral palsy, tuberous sclerosis, Landau-Kleffner syndrome and autism. In such cases epilepsy is one of the symptoms of these conditions.
  • Prenatal developmental delays and problems such as maternal infections and oxygen deficiency can affect a baby’s developing brain.
  • Poisoning from toxins and chemicals such as lead and carbon monoxide can cause epileptic seizures.
  • Drug use and certain medications such as antidepressants.
In some cases the risk of epilepsy and seizure attacks increase with certain triggers. These include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Hormonal changes during menstruation
  • Stress
  • Flashing lights
  • Smoking

Frequently asked questions
  1. Danielle A.J.E. Lambrechts, Laura H.P. Wielders, Albert P. Aldenkamp, Fons G.H. Kessels, Reina J.A. de Kinderen, Marian J.M. Majoie, The ketogenic diet as a treatment option in adults with chronic refractory epilepsy: Efficacy and tolerability in clinical practice, Epilepsy & Behavior, Volume 23, Issue 3, March 2012, Pages 310-314, ISSN 1525-5050, 10.1016/j.yebeh.2012.01.002. (
  2. Srishti Nangia, Roberto H. Caraballo, Hoon-Chul Kang, Douglas R. Nordli, Ingrid E. Scheffer, Is the ketogenic diet effective in specific epilepsy syndromes?, Epilepsy Research, Volume 100, Issue 3, July 2012, Pages 252-257, ISSN 0920-1211, 10.1016/j.eplepsyres.2012.01.015.