Causes of Seizures
Simple Causes: There are some simple conditions that can cause seizures or seizure-like movements:
- Febrile convulsions. These are fever-related seizures, usually in children, and usually a full body seizure (although sometimes a focal seizure).
- Muscle cramps. Over-exertion of a muscle can lead to a muscle spasm or cramp, that’s normal, but there are also some abnormal causes of muscle cramps (e.g. undiagnosed diabetes)
- Hypoglycemic attack (diabetic hypo, insulin reaction, etc.)
- Sleep-related spasms (sleep myoclonus). Occasional twitches, muscle jerks, or spasms occurring at the onset of sleep. These are usually normal.
Brain Causes of Generalized Seizures: Although epilepsy is well-known for causing generalized (tonic-clonic) seizures, there are a variety of causes of fits and full seizures. Many of these causes are very serious:
- Idiopathic epilepsy
- Transient Ischemic Attack
- Cerebral Palsy
- Brain injury (head injury)
- Brain infection (encephalitis)
- Herpes simplex encephalitis
- Brain aneurysm
- Brain tumor
- Temporal lobe tumor
- Brain abscess
- High Intracranial Pressure (High ICP)
- Neurofibromatosis (brain tumors)
- Sarcoidosis (brain tumors)
- Congenital defect
- Hypertensive encephalopathy (hypertension)
- Hepatic encephalopathy (liver disease)
- Hypoxic encephalopathy
- Metabolic encephalopathy
Other Major Causes of Seizures: Problems in other organs of the body can result in effects on the brain that are severe enough to cause seizures:
- End-stage renal failure
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Reye’s Syndrome
- Sturge-Weber Syndrome
- Eclampsia (pregnancy-related hypertension)
- Hyponatremia (low sodium levels)
- Psychogenic seizures
Substance-Related Causes: Various drugs, medications and substances can affect the brain, causing generalized seizures:
- Alcohol Withdrawal (Delirium Tremens)
- Barbiturate withdrawal
- Cocaine abuse
- Lead poisoning
- Arsenic poisoning
- Drug side-effects
- Drug interactions
- Contrast agent side-effects (diagnostic tests)
- Vaccination side-effect. Modern vaccines are much less likely to cause a reaction.
Absence Seizures: Mental seizures where a child may “stare into space” or become non-responsive, are called absence seizures. They are often mistaken for inattention, such as inattentive-type ADHD. Causes may include:
- Epilepsy (certain types)
- Absence status
Other Notable Syndromes: There are a few disorders that don’t really cause “seizures” as such, but can cause some effects or motor disorders that are similar or related.
- Restless legs syndrome
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Essential Tremor
- Motor Disorders (generally)
- Narcolepsy. Causes sudden “sleep attacks” that can seem similar to mental seizures.
- Cataplexy. This disorder involves sudden attacks of lack of muscle tone.
- Sleep paralysis. This causes brief moments of total paralysis before sleep and on waking.
Similar Symptoms: See also the causes of symptoms similar to seizures, such as:
- Muscle spasms
- Involuntary movements
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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.