Hypertension, seizures, and epilepsy: a review on pathophysiology and management

Neurol Sci. 2019 Sep;40(9):1775-1783. doi: 10.1007/s10072-019-03913-4. Epub 2019 May 4.


Background: Epilepsy and hypertension are common chronic conditions, both showing high prevalence in older age groups. This review outlines current experimental and clinical evidence on both direct and indirect role of hypertension in epileptogenesis and discusses the principles of drug treatment in patients with hypertension and epilepsy.

Methods: We selected English-written articles on epilepsy, hypertension, stroke, and cerebrovascular disease until December, 2018.

Results: Renin-angiotensin system might play a central role in the direct interaction between hypertension and epilepsy, but other mechanisms may be contemplated. Large-artery stroke, small vessel disease and posterior reversible leukoencephalopathy syndrome are hypertension-related brain lesions able to determine epilepsy by indirect mechanisms. The role of hypertension as an independent risk factor for post-stroke epilepsy has not been demonstrated. The role of hypertension-related small vessel disease in adult-onset epilepsy has been demonstrated. Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome is an acute condition, often caused by a hypertensive crisis, associated with the occurrence of acute symptomatic seizures. Chronic antiepileptic treatment should consider the risk of drug-drug interactions with antihypertensives.

Conclusions: Current evidence from preclinical and clinical studies supports the vision that hypertension may be a cause of seizures and epilepsy through direct or indirect mechanisms. In both post-stroke epilepsy and small vessel disease-associated epilepsy, chronic antiepileptic treatment is recommended. In posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome blood pressure must be rapidly lowered and prompt antiepileptic treatment should be initiated.

Keywords: Epilepsy; Hypertension; Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome; Seizures; Stroke.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Small Vessel Diseases / complications*
  • Epilepsy / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications*
  • Seizures / etiology*
  • Stroke / complications*