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Can Seizures Cause Brain Damage?

Seizure is a medical condition caused by sudden abnormal outbursts of electric impulses by the brain cells (or neurons). Seizures present with symptoms like uncontrolled muscle spasms, clenching fists, biting tongue and sometimes even loss of consciousness. Due to such episodes it raises a question if seizures can cause brain damage? Let us understand this in detail.

Can Seizures Cause Brain Damage?

Can Seizures Cause Brain Damage?

Studies have shown that seizures have the ability to cause brain damage. However, the exact cause of this is yet unknown. A large number of studies are being carried to get a better understanding to this question. Studies on seizures and epilepsy overlap with each other. While it has been seen that 0.5% to 1% of the world population suffers from recurrent seizure and still lead a productive life (i.e. with no brain damage), in some cases major brain dysfunction has been noted. As seizures often present with other medical issues and epilepsy, a direct correlation between seizures and brain damage is still debatable. But there is a possibility that when seizures occur more often, they can contribute to some amount of brain damage.

Animal studies and clinical studies done with imaging, supports the hypothesis that frequent seizures cause brain damage progressively. If the seizure activities are prolonged (as seen in case of status epilepticus) the damage to the brain is much intense and much faster. Hence, the possibility that when seizures are accompanied with other medical problems or the episodes of seizures are severe, seizures can cause brain damage.

However, studies have also shown that not all of the brain damage is permanent. Sometimes, the damage is short lived and improves with time and treatment. It has also been seen that seizures affect different parts of the brain differently. The most affected areas of the brain are piriform cortex, amygdala and hippocampus. The lesser affected areas includes cerebral cortex, cerebellar cortex and thalamus.

Studies done on children have shown that there is a decline in the intelligence level of children affected by seizures. About 10 to 25% of the study group showed significant decline in intelligence level. Thus, in some cases, seizures may cause brain damage or not, but it is also possible that they can affect the cognitive abilities and intelligence in children.

Conclusion

The ability of seizure to cause brain damage is still under study. Studies have shown that prolonged seizures can cause brain damage though not always. Isolated or brief episodes of seizures can cause alteration in brain functions. Decline in intelligence level has been noted in children. The extent of brain damage can also depend on the type of seizure and the presence of other medical issues. However, the exact pathogenesis is still under study.

References:

  1. Title: “Seizures and brain damage: A long-term follow-up study.” Authors: Holmes GL. Journal: Clinical Neurosurgery. 1984;31:180-194. DOI: 10.1093/neurosurgery/15.2.180 Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6147502/
  2. Title: “Seizures and Brain Damage: The Case for Radical Treatment.” Authors: Schmidt D, Schachter SC. Journal: Epileptic Disorders. 2005 Dec;7(4):261-268. DOI: 10.1684/epd.2005.0073 Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16338688/
  3. Title: “Seizures and brain damage: is there a relationship?” Authors: Steinhoff BJ. Journal: Epilepsy Currents. 2008 Jan-Feb;8(1):11-13. DOI: 10.1111/j.1535-7511.2007.00195.x Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18198883/
  4. Title: “Seizures, epilepsy, and brain damage.” Authors: Stafstrom CE, Carmant L. Journal: Epilepsy Research. 2019 Nov;158:106225. DOI: 10.1016/j.eplepsyres.2019.106225 Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31499322/
  5. Title: “Seizures and Brain Damage: Is Epilepsy a Progressive Disorder?” Authors: Sloviter RS. Journal: Clinical Neurosurgery. 2006;53:265-275. DOI: 10.1093/neurosurgery/53.1.11 Link: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16711321/

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 7, 2023

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