Dr. Howard Goodkin: Hello, I'm Dr. Howard Goodkin for The International League Against Epilepsy. I'd like to talk to you about the causes of epilepsy. People who develop epilepsy often ask, am I to blame for my epilepsy? In many cases, the answer is no. Epilepsy has many causes; some of the causes are the result of things that happen during our lives that may have been prevented, while other causes are not.
Epilepsy can be inherited, in these cases, there maybe a clear pattern of epilepsy moving through the generations. Often, these forms are mild and don't greatly effect the quality of a person's life. People with epilepsy are often concerned that they may pass the epilepsy onto their children. Although, there is no preventing these types of epilepsy, fortunately, in many cases this does not occur.
Other types of epilepsy are the result of subtle changes in one part of the brain that happened while the brain was developing. These changes are usually random and at the moment there is no way to predict or prevent their development, or at the later appearance of epilepsy. However, some types of epilepsy are preventable. These are the result of an injury to the brain. These injuries can come from trauma, such as a severe blow to the head, or from gunshot wounds.
Many people worry that the bumps that we all experience as we go through life can cause epilepsy, but usually that is not the cases. Some types of infection, such as, Meningitis or Encephalitis can cause damage that eventually leads to epilepsy. Stroke which is often the result of preventable risks, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure can also lead to epilepsy in some people.
So when people ask if their epilepsy could have been prevented, the complete answer is usually not, but in some cases being careful, avoiding head injury, reducing the risk for heart attack and stroke, and getting the kinds of immunizations that can prevent Meningitis, can prevent epilepsy in some people. So although some kinds of epilepsy can be prevented, for now, most can't be!
We at The International League Against Epilepsy are working to find ways to prevent all types of epilepsy.