Risk Factors

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There are a number risk factors that give you a higher chance of developing epilepsy. These include:

  • Age. Epilepsy can begin at any age, but more people are diagnosed at two distinct phases in life: early childhood and after age 55.
  • Brain infections. Infections — such as meningitis — inflame the brain and spinal cord, and can increase your risk for developing epilepsy.
  • Childhood seizures. Some children develop seizures not related to epilepsy during childhood. Very high fevers may cause these seizures. As they grow older, however, some of these children may develop epilepsy.
  • Dementia. People experiencing a decline in mental function may also develop epilepsy. This is most common in older adults.
  • Family history. If a close family member has epilepsy, you’re more likely to develop this disorder. Children with parents who have epilepsy have a 5 percent risk of developing the disease themselves.
  • Head injuries. Previous falls, concussions, or injuries to your head may cause epilepsy. Taking precautions during activities such as bicycling, skiing, and riding a motorcycle can help protect your head against injury and possibly prevent a future epilepsy diagnosis.
  • Vascular diseases. Blood vessel diseases and strokes can cause brain damage. Damage to any area of the brain may trigger seizures and eventually epilepsy. The best way to prevent epilepsy caused by vascular diseases is to care for your heart and blood vessels with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Also, avoid tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption.
Complications
Having epilepsy increases your risk for certain complications. Some of these are more common than others.

The most common complications include:

Car accidents

Many states don’t issue a driver’s license to people with a history of seizures until they’ve been seizure-free for a specified period of time.

A seizure can cause loss of awareness and affect your ability to control a car. You could injure yourself or others if you have a seizure while driving.

Drowning

People with epilepsy are reportedly 15 to 19 timesTrusted Source more likely to drown than the rest of the population. That’s because people with epilepsy may have a seizure while in a swimming pool, lake, bathtub, or other body of water.

They may be unable to move or may lose awareness of their situation during the seizure. If you swim and have a history of seizures, make sure a lifeguard on duty is aware of your condition. Never swim alone.

Emotional health difficulties

One-third of people with epilepsyTrusted Source experience depression and anxiety — the most common comorbidity of the disease.

People with epilepsy are also 22 percent more likely to die by suicide than the general population.

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