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why does epilepsy occur

Why does Epilepsy occur?

Why does Epilepsy occur?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder identified by recurrent and unprovoked seizures, they can vary in their intensity or triggers.  It is important to develop an understanding of the underlying causes of epilepsy as this leads to effective treatment, accurate diagnosis for medical professionals. It is also important for those affected by epilepsy to understand why epilepsy occurs as they can find some comfort in gaining perspective as to why this happens to them or someone they love.

In this blog post, we will discuss the three main categories of epilepsy causes: idiopathic, cryptogenic, and symptomatic. By delving into these, we can shine light on the factors which contribute to seizures occurring.

Idiopathic Epilepsy: Mysterious Origin

Idiopathic epilepsy is where the exact cause of the seizures cannot be found, despite extensive medical evaluations.  It is found there is often a genetic component, this suggests that individuals could have inherited a genetic predisposition for epilepsy.  Scientists have researched this link and found there are specific genes that those with idiopathic epilepsy share. The idea of this genetic link is strengthened by the fact individuals with a family history of epilepsy are at a higher risk of developing the disorder. Overall, this shows us there is a strong genetic component of the mysterious origin of idiopathic epilepsy.

While the specific genetic mutations responsible for idiopathic epilepsy are still being uncovered, it’s believed that alterations in ion channels, neurotransmitters, and neural pathways contribute to the increased excitability of neurons, leading to seizures. The phrase “why epilepsy occurs” takes on a particularly enigmatic tone in the case of idiopathic epilepsy, as it underscores the complexity of interactions within the brain that can lead to this disorder.

Cryptogenic Epilepsy: Hidden Triggers

Cryptogenic epilepsy refers to cases where the cause of seizures is suspected but not definitively identified. Unlike idiopathic epilepsy, there are underlying factors that might contribute to the occurrence of seizures in cryptogenic cases, but these factors are not easily recognizable through current diagnostic methods. The search for these hidden triggers is an ongoing challenge in the field of epilepsy research.

In cryptogenic epilepsy, there might be structural abnormalities in the brain, such as scar tissue from a previous injury or an undetected tumour. These abnormalities can disrupt normal neural activity and give rise to seizures. Advances in neuroimaging techniques, such as MRI and PET scans, have enabled medical professionals to better identify these subtle anomalies, but the phrase “why epilepsy occurs” still applies as a reminder of the intricate web of factors that can contribute to the disorder, even when the exact cause remains elusive.

Symptomatic Epilepsy: Underlying Conditions

In some cases, epilepsy can be caused by an underlying condition or injury of the brain, this is called symptomatic epilepsy.  Unlike cryptogenic and idiopathic, there is a clear link between the condition and its cause. This means that diagnosis and treatment are more targeted.

Many factors can result in symptomatic epilepsy, such as traumatic brain injuries or central nervous system infections like meningitis. Further causes can be cerebrovascular disease such as a stroke, scars on the brain, tumour, or developmental disorders such as cerebral palsy.  These are instances where seizures are a result of broader health issues, which highlight the importance of treating the root cause to manage the epilepsy effectively.

The Overarching Complexity: Why Epilepsy Occurs

When asking ‘why epilepsy occurs’, the spectrum of idiopathic, cryptogenic, and symptomatic epilepsy highlights how complex of a question this really is. The brain is a complex and intricate series of networks built of neurons and synapses maintaining a delicate balance. When this delicate balance is disrupted, the brain experiences abnormal electrical activity and seizures.

Over time, our understanding of epilepsy and how it occurs has improved drastically. However, there is still much left to uncover regarding the exact mechanisms that lead to seizures being triggered. It is important to recognise the interplay between genetics, brain structure and environmental factors when developing new research.  As overall research into the brain continues, it is the hope of many scientists and researchers that this will leads to a deeper understanding of epilepsy. This will result in development of more directed therapies and interventions.


When trying to understand why epilepsy occurs, we explore three main categories of causes: idiopathic, cryptogenic, and symptomatic. While idiopathic epilepsy highlights the puzzling influence of genetics on seizure occurrence, cryptogenic epilepsy underlines the challenge of identifying hidden triggers within the brain’s structure. On the other hand, symptomatic epilepsy links seizures to underlying conditions, emphasizing the importance of comprehensive treatment.

The phrase “why epilepsy occurs” serves as a reminder of the complex nature of epilepsy and the human brain as a whole. The continuation of research combined with advancements in genetic studies and neuroimaging, our overall understanding of epilepsy will increase therefore bringing us closer to understanding the complexities of this disorder. Through these efforts, we strive to provide better insights, improved treatments, and improved overall quality of life for those living with epilepsy.


For further understanding of epilepsy, we provide a comprehensive course on Epilepsy Awareness. This can be delivered virtually or face-to-face, suited to your needs. To view this course on our website, click here.  To book or if you would like to speak to us about this course, please contact us on 01476 979183 or email

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