Study Links Epilepsy and Schizophrenia Risk
But an Expert Calls the Risk 'Fairly Low'
WebMD News Archive
June 16, 2005 -- There is a "strong association" between epilepsy
and schizophrenia, says a Danish study of more than 2 million people.
People with epilepsy had about 2.5 times the risk of schizophrenia as the
general population, says the study, which is posted on BMJ Online First.
Yet that's "fairly low," says Charles Raison, MD. Most people with
epilepsy probably aren't in danger of schizophrenia, he says.
Raison directs the Behavioral Immunology Clinic at Emory University's
medical school. Previously, he was a consulting psychiatrist for the epilepsy
service at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).
Raison didn't work on the study, but he read it and put it in perspective
for WebMD. He says he wasn't surprised to see a higher risk for epilepsy
patients and that clinicians should consider seizures as a possible factor in
psychotic patients. "I always wonder about that when we see new onset of
psychosis," he says.
Risk Is Still Small for Patients
The increased risk "doesn't mean that patients are going to go
insane," says Raison.
He says that schizophrenia risk is very small -- about 1%, in general. But
even with the higher risk cited in the study, people with epilepsy still have
only a 2-3 in 100 chance of developing schizophrenia. "That's of some
concern," says Raison, but "you can get a large increase in risk [and]
if the risk is small, you're still very safe."
Put it this way, says Raison: "If I told you you had a 2.5% chance of
winning a million bucks in the lottery, you might be excited, but you'd be an
idiot to quit your job."