Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder in which clusters of nerve cells or neurons in the brain sometimes signal abnormally and cause seizures. There are diverse causes and mechanisms of disease development, but globally in about 50% of cases, the cause is still unknown. In other cases, epilepsy causes can be described as: structural, genetic, infectious, metabolic and immune.

Epilepsy is not contagious.

The causes of epilepsy vary with age.

The causes of epilepsy vary with age and some people in which the cause of epilepsy is unknown may have a genetic form of the disease. Some genes may be associated with epilepsy or the way some genes act in the brain may give rise to epilepsy. The relationship between genetics and epileptic crises (seizures) is very complex and there are no genetic tests available today to identify many of the forms that this condition takes.

Brain malformations and abnormalities in brain wiring that occur during brain development can lead to epilepsy. Similarly, the imbalances of nerve signalling in the brain, spontaneously or coming from head injuries or other secondary problems can also be in the origin of epilepsy as we describe below. 
A different outcome is possible to reach in paediatrics, in which abnormal brain wiring causes other problems, being an example the intellectual impairment.
Infections of the brain are also common causes of epilepsy. The initial infection is treated with medication, but these infections can leave scars in the brain that later can cause seizures.

People of all ages that suffer severe head lesions may also later suffer from epilepsy.


People of all ages that suffer severe head lesions (head trauma) may also later suffer from epilepsy, although this type of trauma is more common in young adults. In adults, strokes, tumours or head trauma are usually the main causes of epilepsy.
In people over 65 years, stroke is the most common cause of seizures, but there are other diseases and conditions that affect brain function and that can lead to epileptic seizures, such as Alzheimer’s disease.




  • Congenital anomaly or genetic changes with brain malformation associated
  • Brain damage caused by prenatal or perinatal lesions (e.g. asphyxiation or poor oxygenation, birth trauma or low weight at birth)
  • Low levels of sugar, calcium or magnesium in the blood or other electrolyte problems
  • Inborn errors of metabolism
  • Intracranial haemorrhage
  • Drug use during pregnancy




  • Fever (high temperatures febrile seizures)
  • Brain infections (e.g., meningitis, encephalitis or neurocysticercosis)




  • Congenital diseases (Down syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, neurofibromatosis)
  • Some genetic syndromes
  • Head trauma




  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Head trauma