Epilepsy and Memory

The memory problem

  • 3.4 million people in the U.S. have active epilepsy.
  • 1 in 26 people in the U.S. will develop epilepsy in their lifetime.
  • 50% of people with epilepsy report memory problems.

More than half of people with seizures experience memory problems and feel that seizures interfere with memory.

Memory and cognition challenges are common among people with epilepsy, and can have a greater impact on quality of life than the epilepsy itself. While some forgetting is considered normal, people with epilepsy generally report more significant problems. Up to half of people with epilepsy report more than average memory problems.

People with epilepsy commonly report having trouble with:

  • Forgetting names, locations, or stories
  • Remembering appointments or forgetting to take medication
  • Finding words, or feeling that something is on the “tip of the tongue”
  • Paying attention or concentrating on tasks
  • Forgetting where an object was put or trouble remembering the next step in a task
  • Slowed thinking

These problems can impact people in work, school, and social situations. While patients often report memory challenges being of high importance in their treatment, these problems are not always prioritized by their health care providers.

Why do people with epilepsy have more memory problems?

A pie chart of the reasons why people with epilepsy have memory problems

There are several reasons why people with epilepsy have more memory problems than other people. Some of these reasons include:

  • Stress, anxiety, and depressed mood: People with epilepsy often experience mood problems because of their disorder; these problems can impact their cognition and memory.
  • Seizures and abnormal brain activity: Seizures, as well as abnormal electrical activity in between seizures, can cause memory problems.
  • Physical abnormalities of the brain: Structural abnormalities in the brain that can lead to seizures can also lead to memory problems.
  • Abnormal brain chemistry
  • Medication side effects: Anti-epileptic medications can come with side effects, including potential impacts on memory and cognition.

Prepare in advance to ask your doctor questions about memory

Do you want to discuss memory problems at your next doctor’s appointment? Use the QuestionBuilder App to prepare questions for your next visit.