Study Links Epilepsy and Schizophrenia Risk
But an Expert Calls the Risk 'Fairly Low'
Raison says he's not surprised to see an increase in schizophrenia among
epilepsy patients. "It had been part of our medical lore that some
percentage of people with epilepsy would slowly, over time, develop chronic
psychotic conditions," he says. There has been debate about when to call
those problems schizophrenia, says Raison.
Again, those are the exceptions, not the rule. A small percentage of
epilepsy patients experience psychotic symptoms during or after seizures. Those
problems more often follow in the days or weeks after a seizure, and sometimes
get resolved without developing into chronic conditions, says Raison.
However, it's more common for seizures to be accompanied by depression or
anxiety, he says. Of course, those problems aren't universal among epilepsy
The findings "probably reflect an underlying link, physiologically, that
we haven't figured out yet," says Raison. There may be "abnormalities
in the ways neurons are wired together." Those problems may develop early
in life and manifest later on, usually in early adulthood.
Future studies may address whether schizophrenia risk is higher for epilepsy
patients who experience psychosis during or after seizures, he says.