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Why do seizures happen?

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Why do seizures happen?

Your brain controls the way you function. Inside your brain, millions of nerve cells (neurones) pass messages via electrical signals to each other. During a seizure these electrical signals are disrupted and this affects how you feel or what you do while the seizure is happening.

Sometimes there is a clear cause for seizures, for example, if someone has damage to their brain from a difficult birth, or an infection such as meningitis, a stroke or a head injury.

The likelihood of someone having seizures can also be partly genetic. This is sometimes inherited from one or both parents, but in some cases it may be from a change that happens only in the person's own genes. So even if someone has a genetic tendency to having seizures, in many cases epilepsy is not inherited.

Genetic – information in the DNA in our cells that controls our characteristics, for example hair colour, sex and height.

Your doctor or neurologist may be able to tell you what has caused your epilepsy, but this is not always possible. Research continues into understanding more about why seizures happen in some people and not in others.

Information produced: November 2023

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Epileptic seizures

There are many different types of epileptic seizure. Any of us could potentially have a single epileptic seizure at some point in our lives. This is not the same as having epilepsy, which is a tendency to have seizures that start in the brain. 

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy varies greatly and affects everyone differently. If you or someone you know has epilepsy, you may find it helpful to learn more. Here are some basic facts about epilepsy and where to get more information.

Want to know more?

Order or download our seizures leaflet:

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