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Q: What causes epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes people to have seizures. It’s caused by a problem with the brain’s structure or electrical activity. Scientists know some of the things that may cause a person to have epilepsy, but sometimes the cause is unknown.

In some cases, epilepsy may be genetic. Epilepsy may run in families, and it’s possible to have genes that make a person sensitive to certain things that trigger seizures. Some people are born with abnormality in their brain that causes epilepsy, and sometimes head trauma, such as from a car accident or traumatic brain injury, can cause someone to start having seizures. Certain infections, like meningitis, can also cause someone to develop epilepsy.

There are many different types of epilepsy, and so symptoms, including seizures, may be different for different people. During a seizure, the person may be confused, freeze and become stiff, twitch, jerk uncontrollably, or lose consciousness. They may have a strong psychological reaction like anxiety or a sense of deja vu.

Treatment is available and can help control or prevent seizures from happening. In most cases, epilepsy can be treated with medication and/or surgery.

Seek immediate medical care if someone with epilepsy has a seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes, if they do not regain consciousness after a seizure, if a second seizure follows quickly after the first, or if the person injures themselves during the seizure. You should also seek medical care if the person having the seizure is pregnant, has diabetes, or has a high fever.

The bottom line is that epilepsy is a serious disorder, but it is treatable. Talk with your doctor if you think you or a loved one might have epilepsy.

Travis W. Glenn, MD

Family Medicine

Glenn Family Medicine, LLC
85 Maui Lani Parkway
Wailuku, , HI 96793