Inflammatory disorders are characterized by their systemic effects. The immune response in these illnesses may cause dysfunction in tissues other than the typically affected organs. When the central nervous system (CNS) is involved, a wide range of neurologic symptoms occurs, including epileptic seizures as well as headaches, confusion, and coma. Seizures or other neurologic abnormalities sometimes may be the initial or even the only manifestation of a systemic inflammatory disorder.

The occurrence of seizures in these systemic immune-mediated disorders raises the issues of whether immune mechanisms may be important in more common forms of epilepsy and whether immunotherapy merits further consideration.

In other instances, systemic inflammatory disorders cause seizures and other neurologic symptoms indirectly, by their influence on other organ systems. By causing failure of vital organs such as the kidney or lung, for instance, they can precipitate metabolic encephalopathies and seizures.

The more common inflammatory, noninfectious disorders that affect the CNS and can cause seizures include:

Collagen, vascular, or connective tissue disorders:

Granulomatous disorders:

Demyelinating disorders

Adapted from: Seiden L and Krumholz A. Inflammatory noninfectious disorders. In: Ettinger AB and Devinsky O, eds. Managing epilepsy and co-existing disorders. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann; 2002;135–154.
With permission from Elsevier (

Authored By: 
L Seiden
A Krumholz
Steven C. Schachter, MD
Authored Date: 
Reviewed By: 
Steven C. Schachter, MD
Wednesday, March 31, 2004