Community Forum

Epilepsy and Diabetes – Confusion or Common “Cure”?

You might be surprised to hear it, but according to recent research, epilepsy and diabetes have more in common than we thought.

The key commonality is fluctuating blood sugar.  People with hyperglycemia tend to have focal or local seizures.  And those who are hypoglycemic, tend to have tonic-clonic seizures…

Although some patients and even some doctors disagree, there’s really not much difference between a diabetic seizure and other forms of seizures, such as those caused by epilepsy. While the symptoms are generally the same — there is one very significant difference — the blood sugar irregularities which can cause a diabetic seizure can also cause the diabetic patient to lapse into a coma.

One dilemma facing both types of seizures are their origin.  If the seizures are caused by blood sugar fluctuations, treatment with anti-seizure drugs which address electrical impulses in the brain are addressing the wrong problems.

Yet we all know that diet plays an important part in controlling epilepsy.

Interestingly enough, initial testing shows that a diabetes drug widely used to help diabetics manage their condition could also become recognized as an effective and secure way of treating epilepsy. According to reports, Metformin  (brand name Glucophage) could be particularly useful in treating those epilepsy patients who are drug resistant.

Glucophage, a popular oral drug for type 2 diabetes, helps lower blood sugar levels by improving the way the body handles insulin.  Much like the Ketogenic Diet which treats epilepsy by minimizing levels of dietary starch and sugar.

A team headed up by Dr. Avtar Roopra found that Glucophage was able to turn on a molecule that regulates energy, and then found that they could suppress over-active nerve cells by inhibiting the transfer of sugar into excess energy.  The goal is to reduce the rate of epilepsy but not enough to affect the brain’s ability to learn and remember.

Further research is continuing, but what has shown as a successful treatment for diabetes could also bring new hope to those with epilepsy.  I’d call that a win-win for the two “kissing cousins!”     Phylis Feiner Johnson


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The mission of the Epilepsy Foundation is to lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and to accelerate therapies to stop seizures, find cures, and save lives.

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