In chronic conditions, such as epilepsy, the coexistence of more than one illness in a patient is the rule rather than the exception…
Men and women with epilepsy have a two-to five-fold increase in the occurrence of conditions, such as migraine, cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disorders, along with gastrointestinal disorders, pulmonary disorders, dementia, chronic fatigue, mood disorders, anxiety, and personality disorders.
The type and prevalence of conditions is largely age dependent. For example, among epilepsy patients, asthma is common among the young, while cardiovascular diseases and stroke are prevalent in older individuals—but both occur more frequently than in the general population.
Below is a sampling of some of the conditions which are related (but not necessarily caused) by epilepsy…
Epilepsy and Heart Disease
The neural activity that accompanies seizures has long been known to affect cardiac functioning. But in patients with nonconvulsive types of epilepsy, these secondary symptoms may be misread as the primary illness.
Five specific cardiac problems have been linked to epilepsy: irregular heartbeat, anginal chest pain, pulmonary edema, symptoms of a tumor linked to hypertension — and sudden death. This is because the areas of the brain affected by epileptic episodes are linked to the hypothalamus, the section of the brain that affects the autonomic nervous system.
People with epilepsy are two to three times more likely to suffer sudden death than the general population. Up to 30% of those deaths cannot be explained. Doctors suspect epilepsy-related cardiac troubles as a major cause due to death of the muscular tissues in the heart.
A diabetic seizure occurs as a result of a burst of simultaneous, contradictory signals from brain cells. There are many causes of seizures including head trauma, fever, illness. Hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) and hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) both can cause seizure, convulsion, coma, and even death.
People with the tendency to have seizures are more likely to have one triggered by fluctuations in blood glucose levels. Persons with hyperglycemia tend to have focal or local seizures, whereas those who are hypoglycemic, tend to have tonic-clonic seizures, also called a hypoglycemic-induced seizure.
A seizure complication of infection can consist of a single seizure or can go on to become a chronic epilepsy. Seizures can arise as an acute, subacute, or long-term consequence of an infectious state. The type of epileptic complication and when it arises depends on the nature of the infectious illness, its duration, plus the type and extent of damage to the central nervous system.
Inflammatory disorders are characterized by their systemic effects. The immune response to these illnesses may cause dysfunction in tissues other than the typically affected organs.
When the central nervous system 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.
These headaches, with no identifiable underlying cause includes migraines as well as tension-type headaches, cluster headaches and a number of rare disorders. It is analogous to idiopathic epilepsy and individuals with one disorder are at least twice as likely to have the other.
Sleep disorders are common, treatable conditions that frequently coexist with epilepsy. Understanding the relationship between epilepsy and sleep disorders is important for optimum results.
Treatment of a coexisting sleep disorder may improve seizure control, daytime alertness, or both. However, sleep disorders such as sleepwalking, nocturnal panic disorder, excessive daytime sleepiness, may actually mimic epileptic seizures.
What is Your Disorder?
You may, yourself, suffer from an epilepsy related condition. The names and numbers of these illnesses are vast. If there’s something I’ve omitted which you would like to include, please, feel free to chime in!