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What causes epilepsy?

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Quick Answer

The cause of epilepsy is typically some form of injury to the brain. According to WebMD, some of the main causes of epilepsy are head injuries that occur during birth, childhood or adulthood; low oxygen during birth; genetic conditions resulting in brain injury; brain tumors; stroke; and infections, such as encephalitis or meningitis.

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Although approximately 70 percent of all cases of epilepsy have no known cause, there are several factors shown to cause seizures in people with the disease. Heavy alcohol consumption, missing prescribed medications, lack of sleep, cocaine and ecstasy use, and taking drugs that interfere with seizure medications can result in epileptic seizures, according to WebMD.

As Mayo Clinic explains, epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which disturbances in brain cell activity cause repeated seizures. Although as many as 1 percent of Americans experience a seizure once in their lifetime, at least two unprovoked seizures are required for a true diagnosis of epilepsy.

Doctors generally attempt to treat epilepsy with antiseizure medications. Finding the proper antiseizure medication and dosage tends to be complicated as doctors must consider the frequency and severity of a patient's seizures as well as the patient's current age and health, states Mayo Clinic. If testing shows that a patient's seizures originate in a well-defined area of the brain that does not interfere with vital functions, surgery may be recommended to remove the area of the brain causing the problem.

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