Epilepsy is a term used to describe many different neurological disorders that all have a common feature, an increased risk of having seizures.
Just as there are many different types of epilepsy there are many different causes too, which include:
- a brain injury or damage to the brain
Anything that can injure the brain is a potential cause of epilepsy including: head trauma; stroke; brain injury during birth; neurodegenerative diseases; brain tumours; and many others. Epilepsy may begin weeks, months or years after an injury to the brain.
- structural abnormalities that arise during brain development
Sometimes these structural changes in the brain are visible on a brain scan (such as a MRI), other times there could be subtle changes in brain structure that are not easy to detect with current imaging techniques. Epilepsy due to a structural abnormality may begin early in life, during adolescence or in adulthood.
- genetic factors
Some genetic causes of epilepsy are inherited and there may be other family members with epilepsy, while other genetic factors that cause epilepsy occur at random.
- a combination of two or more of the above factors
For many people with epilepsy, the cause of their seizures is unknown. It is hoped that research and new developments in diagnostic testing will provide more answers for people with epilepsy and their families.