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Somatic Comorbidity of Epilepsy in the General Population

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Patients with epilepsy often suffer from other chronic conditions (comorbidity) that contribute to poorer health, lower quality of life and impaired seizure control.

Previous studies have explored comorbidity in patients attending clinics or at referral centers. We explored the magnitude of comorbidity in the general population, focusing on non-psychiatric illnesses. We examined the prevalence of epilepsy and 19 chronic, non-psychiatric conditions in two door-to-door Canadian health surveys, the National Population Health Survey (49,000people) and the Community Health Survey (130,882 people). We obtained a ratio of chronic conditions in people with epilepsy versus in people without epilepsy, defined as the Prevalence Ratio (PR).

For example, a condition with a PR of 1.5 indicates that it is one and a half times more frequent in people with than without epilepsy. Most chronic conditions were significantly more prevalent in people with than without epilepsy. Particularly frequent conditions (PR 2.0) include stomach/intestinal ulcers (PR 2.5 - 2.7), stroke (PR 3.9 - 4.7), urinary incontinence (PR 3.2 - 4.4), bowel disorders (PR 2.0 - 3.3), migraine (PR 2.0 - 2.6), Alzheimer’s disease (PR 4.3), and chronic fatigue (PR to 4.1). The important message is that non-psychiatric comorbidity is common in people with epilepsy. Clinicians caring for people with epilepsy need to be keenly aware that these patients are ill in many ways and require a more comprehensive and integrated approach. Also, because chronic comorbid conditions may cause epilepsy,result from epilepsy, or share mechanisms with epilepsy, their recognition provides opportunities for investigating new causes and treatments of epilepsy.

Sourced from a press release by Epilepsy Research UK

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