Adult epilepsy

Lancet. 2006 Apr 1;367(9516):1087-1100. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(06)68477-8.


The epilepsies are one of the most common serious brain disorders, can occur at all ages, and have many possible presentations and causes. Although incidence in childhood has fallen over the past three decades in developed countries, this reduction is matched by an increase in elderly people. Monogenic Mendelian epilepsies are rare. A clinical syndrome often has multiple possible genetic causes, and conversely, different mutations in one gene can lead to various epileptic syndromes. Most common epilepsies, however, are probably complex traits with environmental effects acting on inherited susceptibility, mediated by common variation in particular genes. Diagnosis of epilepsy remains clinical, and neurophysiological investigations assist with diagnosis of the syndrome. Brain imaging is making great progress in identifying the structural and functional causes and consequences of the epilepsies. Current antiepileptic drugs suppress seizures without influencing the underlying tendency to generate seizures, and are effective in 60-70% of individuals. Pharmacogenetic studies hold the promise of being able to better individualise treatment for each patient, with maximum possibility of benefit and minimum risk of adverse effects. For people with refractory focal epilepsy, neurosurgical resection offers the possibility of a life-changing cure. Potential new treatments include precise prediction of seizures and focal therapy with drug delivery, neural stimulation, and biological grafts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Resistance / genetics*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy* / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy* / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy* / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Pharmacogenetics


  • Anticonvulsants