What Are the Long-Term Effects of Epilepsy?

Boy (6-7) lying in hospital bed with toy animal, drawing in book
Child lies in a hospital bed holding a teddy bear. (Image: Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images)

In epilepsy, abnormal electrical activity in the brain causes seizures, according to the Mayo Clinic. The diagnosis of epilepsy is given when there are two or more seizures; epilepsy can be treated with medication or with surgical procedures. All forms of epilepsy require some form of treatment because a seizure can occur during driving, swimming or other activities. There are also some long-term effects that a person may develop after epilepsy.

Brain Injury

People with epilepsy are at risk for having a status epilepticus attack. This is a condition of uninterrupted seizure activity that lasts for more than five minutes or recurrent seizures without a return to consciousness between each one, according to the Mayo Clinic. Status epilepticus may cause brain damage or death. People with epilepsy may also fall down and injure the brain during a seizure; this may cause brain damage as well.

Memory Loss

Patients with epilepsy may develop problems with memory over the long term. According to the Epilepsy Action website, people can lose memories during a seizure which may not return after the seizure ends. Memories of events that occur before a seizure may also be lost after a seizure. Medications used to treat epilepsy may interfere with memory as well. The damage to memory may affect a patient's life in a variety of ways; the patient may have to find ways to adjust to function in everyday life.

Sudden Death

People with poorly controlled or uncontrolled epilepsy are at risk for sudden unexplained death in epilepsy. This condition occurs in about one in every 1000 people with epilepsy, according to the Mayo Clinic. This is also more common in people who have frequent tonic clonic, or grand mal, seizures.

Developmental Disabilities

Children who suffer from epilepsy may develop problems with learning, according to The Hospital for Sick Children website. Some of these problems may stem from the seizure activity itself or from the medications that a child may be taking. A child may have problems in school, with language, attention or memory. Helping a child manage any problems with learning that result from epilepsy requires early intervention.

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