Epilepsy linked to heart disease, cancer
People with epilepsy often suffer other serious conditions like heart disease and cancer, according to US health officials.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reviewed responses to the 2010 National Health Interview Survey and found that around 20 per cent of adults with epilepsy reported a history of heart disease – almost double the proportion of the US population as a whole (11 per cent).
Similarly, around half of people with epilepsy reported having experienced an asthma attack in the last 12 months, compared to one-third of the general population.
Occurrence of ulcers, arthritis and other types of chronic pain were also more frequently cited by epilepsy patients than their healthy counterparts.
Meanwhile, 11 per cent of epilepsy patients developed cancer, compared to just eight per cent of those without the neurological condition.
Finally, CDC researchers found the risk of a person having a stroke increased nine-fold if they had been diagnosed with epilepsy, with 18 per cent of these respondents having experienced the condition compared to two per cent of the public as a whole.
Rosemarie Kobau, co-author of the report and a CDC public health analysis, cautioned that there is a risk of some of these comorbidities being sidelined by clinicians focused on alleviating a patient’s seizures.
“Treating epilepsy can be so intense … some of these secondary conditions might get neglected,” she commented.
Janice Buelow, vice president of programs and research at the Epilepsy Foundation, called the study a “wake-up call” for people with the neurological condition, their doctors and their carers.
“We know that people with epilepsy tended to smoke more, tended to be overweight, so this isn’t brand new news to us,” she said.
“We tend to forget that people with epilepsy have a chronic disorder … Sometimes what we want to do is just count seizures.”
Ms Kobau, meanwhile, theorised that the likelihood of epilepsy patients developing secondary conditions might be exacerbated by therapies that cause weight gain and higher cholesterol, as well as the social disadvantages that tend to affect people with the condition.