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Risk Factors for Epilepsy

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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:

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:

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

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 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

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 03/2014 -
  • Update Date: 05/06/2014 -
  • 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, et al. Meta-analysis of the association between cysticercosis and epilepsy in Africa. Epilepsia. 2010 ;51(5):830-837.