Seizures Not Caused by Epilepsy

About 8 to 10 percent of people will have a seizure during their lifetime, but that doesn’t mean they have epilepsy. Many of those people never have another seizure. (1)

One study followed people who had experienced a seizure over an average of eight years. Among them, 33 percent had a second seizure within four years, and the remaining people were seizure-free for the rest of the study. Of those who had a second seizure, there was about a 73 percent chance of a third seizure within those four years. (2)

Many physical and psychological issues can lead to seizures. Additionally, the causes of some seizures are never identified.

People are not usually diagnosed with epilepsy after just one seizure, and they are not usually prescribed antiseizure drugs.

Febrile Seizures

A febrile seizure happens during a high fever, especially in children. Febrile seizures do not usually lead to epileptic seizures, but antiseizure medications are sometimes given if it was a particularly long seizure or if there is a family history of epilepsy. (2)

Acute Symptomatic Seizures

Acute symptomatic seizures can be caused by acute neurological problems like a recent stroke, a recent head injury, a subdural hematoma or subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain), or inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) caused by an infection.

Acute symptomatic seizures can also be caused by some metabolic irregularities:

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), usually in people with diabetes
  • Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), usually in people with diabetes
  • Hyponatremia (low blood sodium)
  • Hypocalcemia (low blood calcium)
  • Hypomagnesemia (low blood magnesium)
  • Uremia (having urea in the blood), sometimes seen in people with chronic kidney failure
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland)
  • Substance or medication withdrawal, especially from alcohol (usually occurring within 7 to 48 hours of the last drink) or benzodiazepines, including drugs such as Valium (diazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), or Xanax (alprazolam)
  • Drug intoxication, poisoning, or overdoses of illicit drugs — like cocaine, amphetamines, or PCP — or some prescription medications
  • Preeclampsia (high blood pressure and signs of organ damage during or after pregnancy)
  • Impaired liver function
  • Stress, missing meals, or sleep deprivation

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