The medical condition of epilepsy is complex in that it is a neurological dysfunction of the brain. There are many things that are unknown about this condition, but through previous and recent research, many new things are being learned as well. There have been different factors that have been thought to play a possible role as a cause of epilepsy being developed, although no root cause is known. Here we give some general information concerning the factors of things such as genetics, environment, and other things that are thought to be possible triggers for epilepsy. Although much research has been done some of which will be covered, more needs to continue in order to understand this condition at a deeper level.
One area of importance is that of the nurse or general doctor knowing how to treat a seizure or what possible triggers of a seizure may be (1). This will assist hospital staff in knowing how to properly treat a seizure which may occur with a patient. It is also thought that there may be specific triggers prior to a seizure occurring, and knowing these possible triggers may help in either preventing the seizure from occurring, or decreasing the possible damage an individual may suffer while having one (2). Although there could be general triggers that play in as a factor, there may also be triggers for the individual prior to a seizure occurring.
Concerning chemical environments, these can also play a factor in epilepsy or a seizure occurring. This includes the cellular level (3) as well as there being a relationship to certain parts of the body (6). Epilepsy is one of many medical conditions that are undergoing research concerning a possible cause being that of genetics. In some ways this may make sense if there is a possible deformity in a specific gene among different individuals that have epilepsy.
One study found that a mutation in a specific type of gene which can effect specific receptors can lead to epilepsy and seizures occurring (4). This is just one of many studies concerning possible roles in genetics and the development of epilepsy. Genetics and possible deformed genes are only one possible trigger or cause of epilepsy.
Also, concerning internal environment and the development of epilepsy, there could even possibly be a connection with what is known as perinatal factors. One positive thing concerning this is that in one study, three of the main factors thought to be involved in the development of epilepsy are controllable (7). This means that it could be possibly preventable if these factors are watched during pregnancy.
The environment or other medical conditions may lead to one developing epilepsy as well. In one study, a population of a specific area were looked at concerning the concentration of epilepsy that was seen. In this study, a house to house interview was conducted at a total of eight different study sites. This study took place in a village in the republic of south Sudan. A total of just under eighteen thousand individuals participated in this study. Of these individuals, 736 had epilepsy from a diagnosis performed by a clinical doctor. This was highest among the younger population. Overall, it was concluded that there may be a correlation between epilepsy and individuals that had onchocerciasis (5,10). This is an infection of worms with the genus onchocerea. This can be transmitted by insect bites and can lead to medical conditions such as elephantiasis as well.
It has also been known for some time that intermittent flashes of light can be a possible trigger of a seizure. This would mean that it may be best for those with epilepsy to stay clear of anywhere such as a dance floor or skating rink which had disco or flashing lights. For that matter, even something such as flashes of light from lightening could be a possible trigger (8). One study looked specifically at weather and if it was a risk factor for developing a seizure. In this study, 604 patients were admitted to a university hospital. The effects of atmospheric pressure, air humidity, and ambient temperature were looked at during the onset of epileptic seizures. Overall, results showed low atmospheric pressure and high humidity level as increasing the risk for epileptic seizures, while high ambient temperatures seemed to decrease the risk of developing seizures (9).
The previous risk factors that were given are only some that have been found, with many more to investigate. The fact that both the internal and external environments can be triggers for epilepsy is very interesting. From external factors such as temperature and pressure, other medical conditions, and sight related causes, to internal biological factors including environment during pregnancy, to genetic markers, as well as relationships to other body systems are possible factors.
For anyone who has epilepsy or knows someone who does, these are all factors that should be considered. Although there is no known root cause of this medical condition, the research being conducted is coming closer to understanding different possible factors concerning triggers, along with other possible forms of treatment which is all very promising.