Epilepsy: the causes

The epileptic seizure results from an excessive and abnormal activity of a population of neurons, more or less extensive, located in the brain. On a very often short time, the affected neurons activate all at once at the same time, and cause a kind of electric shock.

The causes of this synchronous hyperexcitability are different from one epileptic to another, but lead to the same result: the epileptic seizure. Depending on the location of the epileptic discharge, the symptoms of the seizure will be different.

Epilepsy is a complex condition with a wide variety of causes. When a cause is well identified, we speak of symptomatic epilepsy.

Epilepsy may be due to:

  • a catch of poisons,
  • a brain tumor,
  • a stroke,
  • a brain infection,
  • a cerebral malformation,
  • head trauma, etc.

The expression of epilepsy will then be different depending on the cause.

When the cause is not identified, we talk about idiopathic epilepsy . It combines genetic and environmental causes.

There is no gene for epilepsy, but several genetic variations that may explain a predisposition to the disease.

Like all multifactorial diseases, gene expression would be influenced by environmental factors, such as:

  • certain aspects of lifestyle: tobacco, lack of sleep, stress, lack of calcium or blood sugar, etc.
  • certain conditions (malaria, brain disorders, cardiovascular disorders, etc.).

A whole battery of complementary examinations is started: firstly an electroencephalogram (EEG) to confirm the diagnosis of epilepsy, then a CT scan, or even an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to find the cause.

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