Difficult to Treat Epilepsy and Higher Death Rates More Common for People with both Autism and Epilepsy, Says New Studies
April 27, 2011
April, 2011 -- People living with both autism and epilepsy have more treatment-resistant seizures and a much higher death rate than people living with just one of the conditions, according to two new studies published this month.
In a study conducted by New York University, 55 percent of participants had treatment-resistant epilepsy. The study is published online by the journal Epilepsia. Treatment-resistant epilepsy is defined as seizures that are not controlled after two antiepilepsy drugs fail to help an individual.
A second study, published in the Journal of Child Neurology, looked at postmortem information of people with autism and showed one-third of the individuals also had epilepsy. The study indicated that when epilepsy and autism occur together, the mortality rate increased by more than 800 percent.
Autism spectrum disorders, a group of developmental disabilities, affect about one in 110 children in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Epilepsy impacts nearly 3 million Americans.
Epilepsy is often co-morbid with autism in as many as 30 percent of children. As many as one in 20 children diagnosed with autism by age 3 could either already have epilepsy or develop epilepsy later in life. Sudden unexplained death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) also can occur with people living with autism.
“Both studies show increasing evidence that a link between epilepsy and autism exists. What that link is remains unclear,” said Dr. Joseph Sirven, chair-elect of the Epilepsy Foundation’s Professional Advisory Board. “Clearly, we need more research to better understand the link between both conditions so as to develop treatments that helps improve quality of life.”