Epilepsy Talk

Possible Causes of Epilepsy | February 15, 2017

While there are about 40 different types of epilepsy, there are probably even more types of seizure disorders — caused by a number of internal and external events.

However, most doctors and publications agree on a number of possible or even probable reasons for these seizures. Here are just a few of them…

Hereditary Causes

Many types of epilepsy tend to run in families, and some have been traced to an abnormality in a specific gene. These genetic abnormalities can cause subtle changes in the way the body processes calcium, potassium, sodium, and other body chemicals.

Prenatal Injuries

In a fetus, the developing brain is susceptible to prenatal injuries that may occur if the pregnant mother has an infection, doesn’t eat properly, smokes or abuses drugs or alcohol.


It can be either an injury to the mother caused by childbirth, a congenital abnormality or perinatal injury.

Head Injury

If the head injury is severe, seizures may not begin until years later. If the injury is mild, the risk is slight.

Degenerative Diseases

A disease like cancer reduces the structure or function of tissues. Therefore tumors, whether malignant or benign, can be associated with seizures. The location of the lesion influences the risk.

Brain Conditions

Brain conditions that cause damage to the brain, such as brain tumors or strokes, can cause epilepsy. Stroke is a leading cause of epilepsy in adults older than age 35.

Metabolic Disturbances

Disorders that change levels of various metabolic substances in the body sometimes result in seizures. These include: altered levels of sodium, calcium, or magnesium (electrolyte imbalance)…kidney failure and dialysis…low blood sugar or elevated blood sugar…lowered oxygen level in the brain…severe liver disease and elevation of associated toxins.

Infectious Diseases

Meningitis, AIDS and viral encephalitis, can cause epilepsy.


Probably the most common is food poisoning (typically from bacteria or parasites), but also dangerous are various heavy metals (e.g. lead, arsenic, mercury, etc.), gases such as carbon monoxide, alcohol poisoning, numerous household chemicals and many others.


It can be an interaction or reaction to a drug or combination of drugs, reaction or withdrawal (especially from certain anti-anxiety or antidepressant drugs) or the chronic use of illicit drugs, particularly cocaine, heroine, amphetamines, and PCP.


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  1. A very good summary but I would suggest adding Post Surgical as a possible cause of epilepsy. I say this despite the fact that surgery is sometimes used in an effort to reduce the incidence of attacks. I am thinking of surgical techniques such as a craniotomy used to facilitate the removal of brain tumors or the drainage of abscesses.



    Comment by Michael — February 15, 2017 @ 2:54 PM

  2. Another factor for many people is sleep deprivation and/or not getting enough quality sleep time often due to sleep apnea.


    Comment by paleobird — February 15, 2017 @ 6:00 PM

  3. I have wondered if PANDAS (a strep infection that attacks the brain) could of caused my son’s epilepsy. His seizures began in July 2015 and have now progressed to intractable, but even before that, in 2008, he had other neurological symptoms from PANDAS. What is going on now looks identical to the ’08 damage, with seizures added. I’ve asked many doctors but no one has the answer to that question.


    Comment by Betty Dunning — February 15, 2017 @ 7:59 PM

    • Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer either. But you might find some information at http://www.pandasnetwork.org/


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 15, 2017 @ 11:04 PM

      • Thank you Michael, I would love to know where you read this article. We just came back from Mayo a couple weeks ago, hoping to find answers, but was pretty disappointed. Neurologist’s had no comments on my PANDAS theory. My son has had good results with CBD oil, but was on Depakote and Onfi, his liver enzymes shot up, so we had to take him off. In fact that has been the only positive results so far.


        Comment by Betty Dunning — February 16, 2017 @ 9:16 AM

    • I did a search of PANDAS and epilepsy and several articles showed cases of a link with epilepsy. This is something you probably need to discus with a hospital based consultant who is an expert in this particular field. I had never heard of this condition before. It must be very difficult for the parent as well as the child. I hope things get better for you.

      Best wishes




      Comment by Michael — February 16, 2017 @ 12:06 AM

      • Michael, thank you so much for your diligence and thoughtfulness. Both are really appreciated.


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 16, 2017 @ 8:44 AM

    • Thank you Phylis, I am very familiar with pandas network.


      Comment by Betty Dunning — February 16, 2017 @ 9:18 AM

  4. you can add a high fever, getting ill from baby shot,s.


    Comment by Michele Metzger — February 15, 2017 @ 11:28 PM

  5. what about non epileptic attacks, pnes, caused psycholigally , I’ve lived with epilepsy that registers on EEG and weird things that didn’t, new diagnosis, I have NEAD, and they present like full epilepsy so many of us get the wrong treatment or none at all


    Comment by Gail Barry — February 16, 2017 @ 2:42 AM

  6. Gail, I just didn’t think of covering it here because I wrote about it in another article:

    Epilepsy Versus “Pseudo-Seizures”


    But, you’re right. They’re seizures, if not epilepsy per se.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 16, 2017 @ 8:41 AM

  7. Regarding PANDAS I typed >>>relationship between PANDAS and epilepsy>>> into GOOGLE and got numerous links, most of which of course were of no use to you but some were, for example :




    This is not a subject that I am familiar with but I would assume that you need access to an expert consultant in this field. An MD lacking up to date knowledge and hands on experience in this field is unlikely to be able to help no matter how well intentioned he/she is. We need to educate ourselves by reading up on the medical areas relevant to us or our children in order to be better able to identify the Consultants that can help us but there is no substitute for medical expertise. Unfortunately such expertise is a function of where we live and the type of health insurance we have.



    Comment by Michael — February 16, 2017 @ 4:20 PM

    • Michael, you rock!

      Can you put this where Janine can see it, in the “Keppra — What People Are Saying” thread?


      Thanks a ton.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 16, 2017 @ 4:49 PM

      • Michael, you are right. We live in a less progressive area of the south and in the medical establishment arena too. The nurse in me wants more than what help I’ve been able to give, but I am diligent to be on top of my research. My son has autism as well, which equals: problems that arise are often times dismissed, and would never had been if he was consider normal. We live in a gray area at out house, without answers…I’m learning it’s just compounded with having epilepsy and being given a diagnosis of LGS. I sure hope I can find that consultant soon. Thanks!


        Comment by Betty Dunning — February 17, 2017 @ 11:52 AM

  8. I will try ….but what is the relationship between Kepra and PANDAS?


    Comment by Michael — February 16, 2017 @ 7:54 PM

    • PANDAS, an acronym for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infection, has received widespread notoriety in both scientific and lay publications. Nevertheless, the existence of PANDAS is controversial. It is possible that seizures/night terrors may be due to PANDAS.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 26, 2017 @ 11:14 AM

  9. hi i have been suffering seizures through amphetamine abuse last week i ended up on thr streets begging for water and i had lost my memorso didnt know wrre iylived iended up in someones garden and they videod meonto facebook for 9.47k witnesses i feel so stupid i really want to giveuthephabit but i struggle.


    Comment by manipul8r1 — June 26, 2017 @ 9:49 AM

    • PLEASE see a therapist or start an abstinence program in your local hospital.

      Maybe the embarrassment of the Facebook exposure — which is awful — will help you end the harmful habit.

      I hate to see you hurting yourself. 😦


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 26, 2017 @ 11:19 AM

  10. I think this is something you knew you had to do all the time. You just need a little push.

    I have confidence that you can do it!

    Let me know how you are doing…


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 27, 2017 @ 2:49 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

    View Full Profile →

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