Long-Term Effects of Seizures

(Image: "Shifting Gray Matter" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: npmusikchild (Noemi Perez) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.)

Seizures are uncontrolled electrical misfires from nerves in the cerebral cortex, which governs movement, mental functions, emotions, reactions and some functions of internal organs. According to www.preventdisease.com, up to 2.3 million Americans have seizure activity.

Seizures are mainly treated with medications but can sometimes be controlled with brain surgery. It is often unclear whether the treatments or the seizures themselves cause some of the long-term effects on a person's brain and general health.

Overall Outcomes and Survival Rates

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, patients that are able to control seizures with medications have a positive prognosis with few recurrences. Patients are often more at risk for injuries from seizures such as falls than they are of developing long-term cognitive effects.

Survival rates among those patients that are able to control their seizures either with medications or surgery are higher overall than those who are unable to control them. According to the UMM, this is partially due to the harmful effects of accidents or suicides. Thankfully, the risk of sudden death is relatively low.

Long-Term Effects in Children

The long-term effects that some patients do experience can differ because of the different underlying source of the seizures themselves. The UMM states that the younger a child is when the seizures begin, the more widespread the area of the brain is affected, leading to poorer outcomes. When these seizures are not controllable, effects on intellect are greater. Children are also more apt to develop behavioral problems, learning difficulties and language issues with certain epilepsy syndromes.

Long-Term Effects in Adults

Up to 75% of adults with epilepsy and other seizures disorders have some form of depression and are more likely to commit suicide. This may be correlated with other psychiatric conditions, as well as drug and alcohol abuse. Adding to these risk factors is that some anti-seizure medications can have side effects of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. In addition to psychiatric effects, the treatments have been known to cause osteoporosis and weight changes.

Effects on Reproduction

The UMM and www.preventdisease.com both report that childhood epilepsy may cause hormonal disturbances in puberty, and adults with seizure disorders may experience various sexual dysfunctions. Fertility rates studied in 1998 showed a 33% lower rate in women with seizures. However it is still unclear as to whether it is the manifestation of the seizure activity that causes this or the treatment.


According to preventdisease.com, the majority of patients that can become seizure-free after two years of medicated treatment go on to lead healthy lives. Unfortunately, patients that are unable to control their seizures have the potential of developing intractable epilepsy, which is much harder to cure and treat.

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