Risk factors for epilepsy and potential complications

Risk factors for epilepsy and potential complications

Epilepsy risk factors

Risk factors in the development of epilepsy include:

  • Family history and age: Relatives with epilepsy can play a role in increasing your risk of developing any seizure type of disorder, including this condition. Epilepsy is also more commonly diagnosed in early childhood or in seniors, 60 years of age and older. Epilepsy can, however, occur at any age.
  • Childhood seizures: Children experiencing high fevers can sometimes be as a result of seizures. Risk of epilepsy is generally only high if the seizure occurs for a long period and if there is a family history of the condition or other nervous system problems.
  • Head injuries: Accidents, such as vehicle collisions or engaging in physical activity with a risk of injury or trauma to the head, can cause epilepsy.
  • Vascular diseases and stroke: Diseases affecting the blood vessels can lead to brain damage, which in turn can cause epilepsy. Preventative measures such as limiting alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy diet and level of fitness, as well as avoid smoking can reduce the risk significantly.
  • Brain infections: Inflammatory conditions which affect the function of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) can increase the risk of epilepsy.
  • Dementia: Commonly diagnosed in older people, this condition can increase risk of seizures.

Epilepsy and seizure complications

Complications can be as a result of dangerous circumstances when a seizure occurs (to a sufferer or those around them). These include:

  • A fall: Injuries sustained during a fall can cause harm or trauma to the head, or result in a fracture somewhere in the body.
  • Drowning: Risk increases if an epileptic seizure occurs while swimming or taking a bath. (Water and light can sometimes be a seizure trigger)
  • A vehicle accident: If driving just before a seizure, a loss of control or consciousness can cause an accident.
  • Seizures during pregnancy: Complications can arise during pregnancy if an expectant mom experiences a seizure. Both a mother and her unborn baby can be adversely affected by a seizure. Medications can also increase the risk of birth defects. Careful monitoring by a doctor and medicinal treatment can, however, ensure a safe pregnancy and healthy baby.
  • Psychological issues and emotional health concerns: The nature of seizures can ignite intense fears in a sufferer and place them at risk of mental and emotional health problems, such as depression and anxiety. Side-effects of medications can aggravate these types of health concerns, making it even more difficult to deal with the condition on an emotional level.

Other complications (in extreme circumstances) can include:

  • A state of continuous seizure activity (status epilepticus): Seizures that last for more than 5 minutes at a time, or if one experiences recurrent or multiple seizures without regaining consciousness in between, permanent damage to the brain can occur. This can be extremely life-threatening.
  • SUDEP: A continuous state of seizure activity in some instance can result in death (sudden unexplained death in epilepsy). A cause is more than likely unknown, but can occur as a result of heart or respiratory complications.
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