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Epilepsy and schizophrenia linked

20th September 2011

People who have schizophrenia are many times more likely to develop epilepsy than people who do not have the disorder, according to a recent Taiwanese study.

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The researchers also found that men who had epilepsy were slightly more likely also to have schizophrenia than women who had the disease.

I-Ching Chou, associate professor with the China Medical University in the Taiwanese city of Taichung, said that the relationship between the two diseases could have to do with the way they arose in the first place.

He said that genetic susceptibility and environmental factors may both play a role, and that further investigation would be needed.

For the study, the researchers gathered data on 16,000 patients, relying on the Taiwan National Health Insurance database.

Between the years of 1999 and 2008, 5,195 patients were diagnosed with schizophrenia and 11,527 patients were diagnosed with epilepsy.

Based on those statistics, the researchers calculated that rates of epilepsy were significantly higher in the group that also had schizophrenia.

Measured in person-years, the incidence of epilepsy among schizophrenics was 6.99 per 1,000 person-years.

Among people who did not have schizophrenia, the incidence of epilepsy was 1.19 per 1,000 person-years.

Based on these figures, researchers concluded that people with schizophrenia were six times more likely to get epilepsy than people who did not.

Moreover, they found that the relationship between the two diseases went both ways.

The incidence of schizophrenia was 3.53 per 1,000 person-years among people who had epilepsy, compared to 0.46 in people who did not.

Based on their research, people with epilepsy are nearly eight times as likely to have schizophrenia as people who do not have the disease.

Chou said that his team's research showed that a strong bidirectional relationship between schizophrenia and epilepsy existed.

Manny Bagary, a consultant neuropsychiatrist in Birmingham, said the study was very interesting, and that specialists should be aware that epilepsy sufferers had an increased risk of psychosis.

He said that the association between the two conditions could be due to common traumatic brain injuries or brain haemorrhages in utero, or to a genetic association involving genes such as LGI1 or CNTNAP2, which have been associated with seizures and psychosis in the past.

Although prior studies had shown that depression, mood disorders, and epilepsy were linked, the recent finding is the first to show a bidirectional relationship linking schizophrenia and epilepsy.

 

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