What are the Most Common Causes of Seizures?

Sara Schmidt

Injuries and diseases are the most common causes of seizures. Drug use, birth defects, and genetic conditions may also cause seizures. In adults, however, the causes of seizures are often unidentifiable.

Cocaine use can trigger seizures.
Cocaine use can trigger seizures.

When seizures have a known cause, they are known as nonepileptic seizures. These types of seizures are triggered by an identifiable cause, such as a disorder, injury, or other issue stimulating irregular brain activity. Seizures themselves are not contagious, but they may be caused by an infectious disease, such as AIDS, encephalitis, or meningitis.

Brain injuries can lead to partial seizures in the affected area of the brain in some people.
Brain injuries can lead to partial seizures in the affected area of the brain in some people.

Many temporary conditions can trigger seizures. A high fever may cause nonepileptic seizures, particularly in children. This is the most common cause of seizures among patients under age two. Metabolic issues, such as abnormal calcium or glucose levels, are other causes of seizures in babies. Infection, maternal drug use, and lack of oxygen during birth may also be contributing factors to infant seizures.

Any issue stimulating irregular brain activity can lead to seizures.
Any issue stimulating irregular brain activity can lead to seizures.

Recreational drug use, as well as suddenly stopping certain medications, are causes of seizures. Certain prescription drugs can cause seizures as well. Drugs that can trigger seizures include amphetamines, heroine, cocaine, antibiotics, Attention Deficit Disorder treatments, and weight loss drugs. Drinking alcoholic beverages can also induce seizures in some people, particularly if the amount of alcohol ingested is excessive. Alternatively, alcoholics who abruptly cease drinking, and drug addicts who stop taking drugs may experience seizures.

A high fever may cause seizures.
A high fever may cause seizures.

Direct injuries or diseases affecting brain tissue, such as traumatic brain injuries or brain tumors, can also lead to seizures. Patients who experience a stroke are also susceptible to seizures. Other cardiovascular disorders and diseases can stimulate seizures. Failure of other organs in the body, such as the liver or kidneys, has been known to cause seizures in many patients.

Congenital conditions existing from birth are sometimes causes of seizures. Down syndrome can trigger abnormal brain activity. Some other conditions may include neurofibromatosis, Tay-Sachs disease, tuberous sclerosis, and phenylketonuria. Dementia-related diseases that develop late in life, such as Alzheimer's disease, can cause seizures as well. Trauma is an additional cause of seizures in elderly patients.

If no identifiable cause of a seizure is present, the seizure is considered an epileptic seizure. This type of seizure, sometimes called a fit, often occurs repeatedly in the person experiencing it, sometimes under predictable circumstances. Though no known condition triggers the seizures, their existence itself is called a seizure disorder, or simply epilepsy. Scientists postulate that sleep deprivation, electrolyte deficiencies, extreme stress, and many other factors may be associated with epilepsy.

Congenital conditions, such as Down's syndrome, can trigger abnormal brain activity.
Congenital conditions, such as Down's syndrome, can trigger abnormal brain activity.

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Discussion Comments


My loved one had sudden seizures a couple of days ago. She seized three or four times. Her CT scan is normal and the doctor said her potassium low. She is a cancer patient and also finished six cycles of chemotherapy. Can anyone tell me why she had the seizures?


@nanny3 - Another thing to remember if you are ever with someone who has a grand mal seizure is not to stick anything into their mouth.

It’s an antiquated practice because people were afraid that the person having the seizure would swallow and suffocate on their tongue. In all likelihood, this is not a huge concern.

A much greater concern is that if you stick your fingers in a person’s mouth who is having a seizure, you could be really injured. You see, they can’t control their muscles, and that includes the jaws.

You could actually lose a finger that way.

Another big danger to this is the person having the seizure could quite possibly break their own teeth.

The best thing you could ever do for someone like this is to make sure they are safe, call for help if they don’t have a history of seizures and try your best to stay with them the entire time.

Also, don’t throw water on them; it will not help them to ‘come out of it.’ They will just be having a seizure and be soaked, too.


@ Oscar23 - I know exactly what you are talking about.

I used to work with a child who would have those mini-seizures over and over constantly. She was a little different, though, because she also had grand mal seizures regularly.

It was thought that perhaps her seizures’ cause originated in utero; maybe from drug or alcohol abuse by the mother. Regardless, she had the same learning problems.

My job was to monitor her, make sure she was safe at all times and to count her seizures to help doctors cage her medication levels.

Sometimes she would be talking, and just stop; I knew she was having a seizure.

Other times she would have a cookie or something and it would suddenly just fall from her hand. A few seconds later she would blink, look at her hand as if it had eaten her cookie without her knowing.

However, the grand mal were very noticeable. The important thing to remember if ever you are with a person having this kind of seizure is not to move them; but do remove everything that could hurt them from their area.


My niece is just the sweetest little thing, so no one really wanted to say anything when from an early age she hit all of her milestones quite late. We thought at first it might have been because she was the only grandchild.

However, when I had a daughter a year younger than her who quickly surpassed the child’s abilities, we knew something needed to be looked into.

Come to find out, the sweet girl was experiencing upwards of a hundred mini-seizures a day. This was completely interrupting any and all learning experiences.

It’s important to note that not all seizures are the kind that you see on television where a person is convulsing wildly. There are other seizures that are very hard to see. It might only be apparent in a far off look.

With my niece, she would be totally tuned into something and suddenly just go far away. A few seconds later she would be with you again, but she would have missed all of the information you were giving her in between.

She’s been medicated now for several years and is now just as quick to learn as anyone!

Causes of seizures in children can be hard to pinpoint, but she has epilepsy.


@everetra - I’ve heard that some lights can trigger seizures.

A few years ago there was something in the news about these Japanese video games that were triggering seizures in kids. I don’t think that this is epilepsy, however.

I’ve even read on video games these warning labels that say that people with seizure conditions should be careful with the game.

While this is obviously directed at epilepsy patients, I think otherwise normal people should be careful as well; those video game frame rates can get to be pretty high and can spark electrical activity in the brain, I am told.


I don’t always know what causes seizures. However, I have a friend who takes seizure medication and he told me that he traced the onset of the illness to a car accident he had when he was only four years old.

He had a trauma to the head and that triggered the seizures. He said that he had a CAT scan once and that they found calcium deposits in a part of his brain.

I have no idea what is the connection between this and seizure activity but the doctors seemed to think that it was important. He also said that he is on a restriction for his driver’s license; he is limited to how much driving he can do each day.

I thought that was the worst part of the condition, but he told me that even without the legal restriction, he would probably impose the restriction on himself. He told me the last thing you want is to have a seizure while driving a car.


My daughter had seizures when she was a young girl. We were told that she would grow out of these as she got older. I am so glad that this was the case for her. She has not had a seizure for over 10 years now.

Some of the seizure symptoms she experienced were a lightheaded, dizzy feeling. As she became familiar with this sensation, we were able to have a little bit of a warning. Sometimes she also had a slight tingling sensation, but the dizziness always came first.

You never know when a seizure is going to come on. Many times these would happen at school and would be embarrassing for her. Every year, I would talk with her teacher and let them know what was going on.


When my cousin had a seizure, she had all kinds of tests run to determine the cause of her seizure. They didn't diagnosis her with epilepsy, and I don't know if they ever figured out what caused her seizure.

She began taking medication and had to take this medication for a year and be seizure free. After a year, they would evaluate her again. She was not able to drive for a year while she was on this medication.

Being the single mom of twin boys, this really was difficult for her. Thankfully, her parents lived in the same town and they were able to help her out during this time.

I know there are many different causes of seizures in adults, but this was strange because she had no family history of seizures, and it has not happened again.

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