Increased epilepsy risk in type 1 diabetes

By Will Boggs MD

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People with type 1 diabetes are nearly three times as likely as others to develop epilepsy, researchers report.

"Recently, autoimmune epilepsy has become a hot topic, and epileptologists are becoming increasingly interested in autoimmune processes and in the search for pathogenic antibodies," Dr. I-Ching Chou from China Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan told Reuters Health. "Type 1 diabetes mellitus is one of the most common autoimmune disorders in children, and the incidence of type 1 diabetes has increased in children and adolescents."

Some recent studies have suggested a connection between type 1 diabetes and epilepsy, but epidemiological studies have been inconclusive.

When Dr. Chou and colleagues looked at population-based data from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database, they found the incidence of epilepsy per 10,000 person-years to be 33.7 for patients with type 1 diabetes, compared with 10.4 for controls without type 1 diabetes, according to the March 31st Diabetologia online report.

After adjustment for other possible risk factors, patients with type 1 diabetes had a 2.84-fold higher risk of epilepsy compared with patients without type 1 diabetes.

When patients with a history of epilepsy were excluded, the risk associated with type 1 diabetes was increased 3.36-fold.

The extra risk of epilepsy in patients with type 1 diabetes was increased in those with hypoglycemia or with more severe diabetes.

"Metabolic abnormalities of type 1 diabetes, such as hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, may have a damaging effect on the central nervous system and be associated with significant long-term neurological sequelae," Dr. Chou said. "The causative factors between type 1 diabetes and the increased risk of epilepsy require further investigation."


Diabetologia 2016.

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