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A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition. It is possible to develop epilepsy with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing epilepsy. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors for epilepsy include:

Medical Conditions

Any injury to the brain, either from external (environmental) or internal (medical/metabolic) sources can increase your risk of epilepsy.

Side View of the Brain

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Brain injury can be caused by:

Genetic Factors

In some cases, epilepsy can result from genetic abnormalities inherited at birth.

Age

Different causes and types of seizures are more or less likely depending on your age.

In children, risk factors include:

  • High fever
  • Poor nutrition

Other Factors

Other factors that can increase your risk of epilepsy include:

  • Exposure to:
  • Certain illegal drugs
  • Overdose or withdrawal of antidepressants and other medications
  • Medication interactions
  • Alcoholism
  • Cysticercosis (an infection caused by a pork tapeworm)

References:

Berkow R. The Merck Manual of Medical Information. 17th ed. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster; 2000.

Epilepsy Foundation website. Available at: http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/.

5/6/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/: Quet F, Guerchet M, Pion SD, Ngoungou EB, Nicoletti A, Preux PM. Meta-analysis of the association between cysticercosis and epilepsy in Africa. Epilepsia. 2010 ;51(5):830-837.

Last reviewed March 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.