Epilepsy is a complicated disorder often associated with disorganized and uncontrolled electrical signals and communication between nerve cells of the brain. In almost 50% of people diagnosed with epilepsy, the cause is idiopathic (unknown). The remaining cases of epilepsy can be attributed to some epilepsy risk factors such as brain damage or injury, developmental disorders, genetics, certain illnesses, and other conditions.
Epilepsy Risk Factors
Something that makes a person more likely to develop epilepsy or seizures is known as a risk factor. Certain risk factors can lead to brain malfunctioning due to disturbance in the electrical activity of the brain. Some risk factors can lead to the areas of the brain not working properly or not developing. people may develop epilepsy owing to certain risk factors, but some people can develop epilepsy even if they don’t have any of these risk factors. In many cases of epilepsy, the cause often remains unknown in the absence of a risk factor. Whatever may be the case, the following Epilepsy risk factors can increase the risk of epilepsy in an individual:
Brain Injury or Damage
- Traumatic brain and head injuries
- Brain damage before birth and during birth
- Maternal infection and oxygen deprivation
- Brain tumors
- Brain stroke
- oxygen deprivation after birth
- Stroke is the leading cause of epilepsy in adults who are diagnosed after age 65
Individuals who have had head injuries can be at risk of developing epilepsy. After a head injury or trauma – seizures can develop within a few hours, days, weeks, months, or even after several years. If a person sustains head trauma or injury and also has a family history of epilepsy, the risk of developing epilepsy is higher.
The major risk factor of epilepsy is a genetic abnormality (defect in the genes – defect in ion channels or receptors). An individual is genetically predisposed to epilepsy and epilepsy-related to a genetic cause begins in childhood.
Certain infections cause changes in the brain signaling pathway and electrical activity and cause inflammation. For instance – viral encephalitis, meningitis, tuberculosis, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDs).
People who have developmental disorders during their childhood can become prone to epilepsy. People with cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, and intellectual disabilities are more likely to develop epilepsy.
Some birth factors can make a person prone to seizures (epilepsy). Such factors may include low birth weight, small size, deprivation of oxygen before, after, or during birth; manifestation of seizures within the first month after birth; and other brain abnormalities that may increase the risk of epilepsy in adults.
If an individual has experienced prolonged seizures or developed a neurological disorder in childhood, his or her risk of epilepsy increases manifolds.
Age is not a major risk factor for epilepsy as it can occur at any age. However, epilepsy tends to manifest more during childhood and in older adults.
Structural Changes in the Brain
Structural changes in the brain such as a shrunken hippocampus (Hippocampal sclerosis) and abnormality in brain development due to neurons failing to migrate to their proper locations (focal cortical dysplasia) can lead to epilepsy.