Epilepsy Talk

Epilepsy Related Conditions | October 8, 2017

In chronic conditions, such as epilepsy, the coexistence of more than one illness in a patient is the rule rather than the exception…

Men and women with epilepsy have a two-to five-fold increase in the occurrence of conditions, such as migraine, cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disorders, along with gastrointestinal disorders, pulmonary disorders, dementia, chronic fatigue, mood disorders, anxiety, and personality disorders.

The type and prevalence of conditions is largely age dependent.  For example, among epilepsy patients, asthma is common among the young, while cardiovascular diseases and stroke are prevalent in older individuals—but both occur more frequently than in the general population.

Below is a sampling of some of the conditions which are related (but not necessarily caused) by epilepsy…

Epilepsy and Heart Disease

The neural activity that accompanies seizures has long been known to affect cardiac functioning. But in patients with nonconvulsive types of epilepsy, these secondary symptoms may be misread as the primary illness.

Five specific cardiac problems have been linked to epilepsy: irregular heartbeat, anginal chest pain, pulmonary edema, symptoms of a tumor linked to hypertension — and sudden death. This is because the areas of the brain affected by epileptic episodes are linked to the hypothalamus, the section of the brain that affects the autonomic nervous system.

People with epilepsy are two to three times more likely to suffer sudden death than the general population. Up to 30% of those deaths cannot be explained. Doctors suspect epilepsy-related cardiac troubles as a major cause due to death of the muscular tissues in the heart.


A diabetic seizure occurs as a result of a burst of simultaneous, contradictory signals from brain cells.  There are many causes of seizures including head trauma, fever, illness.  Hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) and hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) both can cause seizure, convulsion, coma, and even death.

People with the tendency to have seizures are more likely to have one triggered by fluctuations in blood glucose levels. Persons with hyperglycemia tend to have focal or local seizures, whereas those who are hypoglycemic, tend to have tonic-clonic seizures, also called a hypoglycemic-induced seizure.


A seizure complication of infection can consist of a single seizure or can go on to become a chronic epilepsy. Seizures can arise as an acute, subacute, or long-term consequence of an infectious state. The type of epileptic complication and when it arises depends on the nature of the infectious illness, its duration, plus the type and extent of damage to the central nervous system.

Inflammatory Disorders

Inflammatory disorders are characterized by their systemic effects. The immune response to these illnesses may cause dysfunction in tissues other than the typically affected organs.

When the central nervous system is involved, a wide range of neurologic symptoms occurs, including epileptic seizures as well as headaches, confusion, and coma. Seizures or other neurologic abnormalities sometimes may be the initial or even the only manifestation of a systemic inflammatory disorder.


These headaches, with no identifiable underlying cause includes migraines as well as tension-type headaches, cluster headaches and a number of rare disorders.  It is analogous to idiopathic epilepsy and individuals with one disorder are at least twice as likely to have the other.

Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders are common, treatable conditions that frequently coexist with epilepsy. Understanding the relationship between epilepsy and sleep disorders is important for optimum results.

Treatment of a coexisting sleep disorder may improve seizure control, daytime alertness, or both. However, sleep disorders such as sleepwalking, nocturnal panic disorder, excessive daytime sleepiness, may actually mimic epileptic seizures.

What is Your Disorder?

You may, yourself, suffer from an epilepsy related condition.  The names and numbers of these illnesses are vast.  If there’s something I’ve omitted which you would like to include, please, feel free to chime in!

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  1. “Men and women with epilepsy have a two-to five-fold increase in the occurrence of conditions, such as migraine, ….chronic fatigue, mood disorders, anxiety, and personality disorders.”
    Hmmm. Maybe that’s why everyone on the Coping With Epilepsy site seems to be so cranky 🙂 JK (sorta).

    But seriously. My “other disorder” is breast cancer. Did you find any stats about epilepsy and cancer overlap? I’m currently dealing with the second bout of this. I beat it ten years ago but it is back for a rematch. Dangit!


    Comment by paleobird — October 8, 2017 @ 12:55 PM

  2. Darn…you gave law enforcement more ammunition to say epileptics are mentally ill. I’m sure I could find statistics contrary to the ones cited in your column. You’re not on my side:-(


    Comment by Susan Vander Veer — October 8, 2017 @ 1:11 PM

    • “It’s interesting that whenever a crime or harm is done to a person with epilepsy, or as soon as the person’s epilepsy becomes known, the accused are veiled in immunity.

      Any claims by someone with epilepsy that they have been physically abused are written off or ignored, stating that the person cannot function properly with their degree of epilepsy, and that additional treatment is necessary to prevent the incident from happening again.

      The degree of the outcome is basically irrelevant, from inflicted emotional trauma, to assault and battery, to robbery, kidnapping, rape, and murder.

      And, to add insult to injury, people with epilepsy experience these atrocities at a much higher frequency, because they are regarded as having something “wrong” with them.

      The results of the harm will most likely be often written off because the person had epilepsy. Therefore they don’t “count.”

      Even the number of witnesses, the degree of evidence, and the presence of law enforcement officials are basically irrelevant. Most people tend to turn their heads and pretend nothing happened.

      Well-documented cases with complete sets of video, don’t sustain punishment, legal action, correction, change in policy or even change in protocol.

      And so the blame goes to the victim. (Are they insinuating that we’re all nuts?)

      This resulting denial of “equal protection under the law” is an additional abuse.

      It’s sad to know, the very “authorities” who swore to protect, serve and save our lives, can be as deadly as the epileptic seizures we are forced to live with, everyday.

      Elsewhere, this country would call such abuse as crimes against humanity.

      In most states, having a seizure is technically illegal, and while prosecutions are not many, they do happen.

      When prosecutions happen, many states only allow the insanity defense, which strongly implies that the government itself regards epilepsy as a form of mental illness, in addition to the prejudiced public.”

      Who’s at Fault?



      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 8, 2017 @ 2:17 PM

  3. Wow, and I thought these symptoms were due to my traumatic brain injury! Does this mean I’m twice as likely to have dementia? (Rhetorical question, I know) 😊
    Do all these have to do with petite mal seizures too?


    Comment by Amy — October 8, 2017 @ 3:09 PM

    • I think they’re pretty generalized statements…not to pertaining to one type or another, but rather “seizure disorders”.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 8, 2017 @ 6:39 PM

  4. My epilepsy started in my fifties. I believe caused by combination of mercury toxicity due to mouth full of silver fillings when I was 11yrs old Epstein Bar Virus due to mononucleosis when I was 12 yrs old and head trauma due to automobile accident when I was 30yrs old. I also discovered diet, impurities in my food and excessive sugar triggers my seizures. Unfortunately conventional neurologist are not educated about this and only want to prescribe medication. I say YES our environment definitely affects our nervous system..


    Comment by Deborah Harley — October 8, 2017 @ 3:49 PM

    • Wow, if anyone wanted to point to cause and effect, that would be you.

      I’m so sorry you went through all of that and were exposed (unwittingly) to such things as mercury toxicity. 😦

      Yes, our environment is part and parcel of our health. I couldn’t agree more.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 8, 2017 @ 6:43 PM

  5. WOW, All these times when I was having seizures, I was always wondering WHY my heart & my left-hand blood vains feel like racing to explode, before I ended up being unconscious & knocked out to the ground to only wake up disoriented & confused in hospital emergency rooms.
    Never did I imagined the link between my neurological disorder to cardiac malfunctioning.
    I guess, I got a long way to go before knowing the entire dramatic disorders behind Epilepsy.

    Phyllis, I may had hard time ACCEPTING being Epileptic & hoped to the neurological disorder to go away, but thanks to you I’m learning the bigger scope of the neurological disorder & on the mechanism to cope with the disorder.
    Thanks for your commitment, devotion & hardwork to fight against Epilepsy, many of us are learning the bigger scenarios beyond our
    epileptic seizures.
    Thanks for this great article, connecting the missing links of the whole epileptic ordeals.


    Comment by Gerrie — October 8, 2017 @ 11:38 PM

    • Thanks Gerrie, for the compliment. I’m sure there are more missing links that I haven’t even come close to discovering.

      The scope is literally behind comprehension — for us, docs, surgeons, neuro engineers and all those who work to understand and conquer epilepsy daily.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — October 9, 2017 @ 10:21 AM

  6. Reblogged this on catsissie.


    Comment by catsissie — October 9, 2017 @ 3:48 AM

  7. I was contributing regularly and in some depth until about 3 months ago to the blog. Unfortunately I have had a bit a rocky time, seizure wise and have lacked the energy and mental enthusiasm to join in until tonight. Sorry about that folks.
    What prompted me tonight is a bit selfish as I have become more and more frightened over this last while about some of my symptoms and their cause and wondered if I could ask for some opinions from all of you. One of my big problems is that i live in France and although I do speak French reasonably well, I don’t think I do so well enough to have in depth discussions about something as important as this.

    Anyhow, I started to have more and more “speech” problems – with both my languages – great difficulty in finding words – huge gaps and also an inability to spell words which I have had no problem with in the past – language has always been one of my strong points. This is a daily problems occurring constantly in both speech and writing. Also, my inability to “connect” my thoughts in my brain with the words I need to actually speak. I can “hear” it in my head but i just can’t transfer it to speech.

    I have had increasingly severe memory problems since my epilepsy started some 13 years ago (late onset) and they are becoming frighteningly constant. Add to this, I am constantly stumbling and dropping things.

    Can anyone tell me f they have had any similar problems or should i be asking for more in depth testing to discover if these problems have any additional causes.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my very long post.



    Comment by Margaret — November 12, 2017 @ 5:18 PM

    • Margaret,

      Do you know about Aphasia?

      “Aphasia is an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write.

      Aphasia can be so severe as to make communication with the patient almost impossible, or it can be very mild. It may affect mainly a single aspect of language use, such as the ability to retrieve the names of objects, or the ability to put words together into sentences, or the ability to read. More commonly, however, multiple aspects of communication are impaired, while some channels remain accessible for a limited exchange of information.” https://www.aphasia.org/aphasia-definitions/

      Since aphasia, in some cases, can be attributed to a stroke, I urge you to go to a neurologist and get tested.

      Margaret, I worry about you. Please give me regular updates.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 12, 2017 @ 9:32 PM

  8. I meant to add that I take 500mg Lamictal and 100mg Vimpat daily.



    Comment by Margaret — November 12, 2017 @ 5:29 PM

  9. Also meant to add a very important point. My seizures started increasing noticeably about 18 months ago but most of all in the last year – then the last 3 months even more.


    Comment by Margaret — November 12, 2017 @ 6:15 PM

    • Hi Margaret! I’m so sorry for the issues you’ve been having. Talk with your neurologist about changing your prescription. Sometimes your brain gets used to a med, and loses its effectiveness. I have had to change at least three times in the 30+ years of my petit mal seizures.
      Best wishes,


      Comment by Amy — November 12, 2017 @ 7:49 PM

      • I am going to write this without correctecting any of the “tupos” as I odn’t know if they are indicitive of anyanthing but they are what is happppening al th etime. I hope you can read this!

        Thank you Amy and Phylis for your replies – really apprecreciated. I have actually seen “my” neurologist – actually classed as specifically an epilepsy specialist-I have seen her twice in th elast year – she says she hasn’t the “space” in her diary for more frequequent appointments. She has though given me her direct phone number to call if I have a new problem. The proboblem for me there is that to discuss all this on th ephone in French is not ta all easy. I have bene to see my own doctor who is very suppupportive but who doesn’t have the expexpertise to give me direct advice but has called my specialist about changing my top-up meds – this has been done twice in th elast 6 months but the side effects haev been to severe and they have had to be changed – and they didn’t control the seizeizures anyhow. I went fo rone particular examamination at the beginning of September whwere I had to stay up until midnight then get up at 5am, stay awake until mid-day at the hopsital and then I was “hooked up” to the EEG and allowed to go to sleep. It turned out that I actually then had consant tonic clonic seizures fo rover 30 minutes but all that happpened was that the specialist changed th etop up meds that she had been giving me. Now my own decotor hasn’t yet even had the ereport from the ehospital!!!! I have had 6 tonic/clonic seizures in the elast 2 weeks – 3 of them in one night. – one of which invloved total incontinence – the first itm eof rthat in 8 years. The tonic clonic ones are all sleep based these days – they didn’t used ot be – and th epetit mal are noticalby (!!) when I am awawake!

        Thank you fo rth eword “aphasia” because I have never known the word to desescirbe it. It isn’t constant – just suddenly comes up – either talking or writing – and is quite scary. I am going to go and read th elink you gave me.
        One of th eproblems with where I live that the nearest “good” hopspsital to here is about 1h30 away and the next one is over 2h30 away too and I don’t know if that one wil be any more help. I am consisiering trying to find and expert up in Paris itself (5 hours away) but don’t know how to find a good one!! If I’m being totally honest, I think I ma woyrrying that there coud be some connection with Alzheimers!!?? I di have a test for that whne al of this reared its uglu yhead again some 2 years ago and they found no poroblem but, of course, I am having to do the word tests in French so I don’t know how accurate they are – maybe they are making “allowances” for th elanguage wihth they shouldn’t be doing.

        I will bring iup the subject of more neurologigial testing with my own doctor – I’ll try ot see her this week. The system here is differnet as it si state based and the docotrs aren’t “private “- so not so easy to see!!!!

        I will keep you updated – just don’t know hwen I will have updaetes to give you!

        Thank you again fo ryour support – it makes oyu fele you are not alone.



        Comment by Margaret — November 13, 2017 @ 4:29 AM

      • Margaret, you MUST be tested. This seems more destructive to me than your “usual seizures” and could be indicative of some brain growth, abnormality or stroke.

        I am not trying to scare you. But you’re scaring me. And the fact that no testing is being done, is the most discouraging.

        Please go to Paris. Get a referral from your regular doctor. Can he do that much?


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 13, 2017 @ 10:17 AM

      • Thank you again Amy. I have been hanging on desperately to my original meds (Lamictal) which were th efirst ones they actually fond to ocntrol things – over 8 years ago – after 5 years of strugglung to find anything. I am terrified ot give them up in case everything goes crazy again. What they decided to do anyhow it just to try to add “top-ups” – which are Vimpat at the moment. Several others failed ot help. Perhaps I need ot have the courage to try to change the Lamicatal too.
        PS Have read Phylis’s recommended link on Aphasia and it does seem possible that what I have might be classed as Anomic aphasia – but what is causing it is the question right now.


        Comment by Margaret — November 13, 2017 @ 7:47 AM

      • Margaret, Lamictal has been my (successful) med for 10+ years. I hope you’ll stay on it. The big question is what else to add?

        Obviously what they’re doing is not working.

        But I don’t think they’ll find the real answer/solution until you’re properly tested. (Or re-tested.)


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 13, 2017 @ 10:29 AM

      • I will have corrected a lot of this following text to save you all having to read rubbish!!

        Thank you so much for your time to reply – it is a really big help. Oh, this is the kind of thing I am talking about – I have said sort of what I wanted to in the first sentence but I had to just put words that said the “thing” I wanted but I couldn’t find the real words I was looking for!! It happens all the time – sometimes it is like a big “hole” in my thinking.

        I did call my neurologist today, after our earlier on-line “conversations”, but her secretary just said an appointment wasn’t possible, that she didn’t have a space in her diary for seeveral months.!

        I am going to go to my own doctor tomorrow – I can see her just by sitting in her wailting room and waiting. She is very good and patient so I am going to ask her again what we can do. I am going to ask about Paris – maybe possible?

        I started wondering if the speech, balance and worsening memory could be caused the increased number of seizures? Would these EEGs (ordinary and the special one I spoke about) that I have had show up any strange things in my brain or do I need other special ones? I also owndered if the change of top -up mediction could have ben a tirigger for any of it?

        You hven’t scared my .Phylis – don’t worry – I know I need to try to get to the bototmn of this – I am scared by IT – not by your suggestions!!

        Thank you again




        Comment by Margaret — November 13, 2017 @ 2:28 PM

      • There are many more in-depth tests you can have, Margaret.

        Beyond EEGs — Diagnostic Tools for Epilepsy


        From what you say, it seems Paris would be preferable, especially if your neurological problem is different from your seizure activity.

        I can’t say anything more about the speech, balance and worsing memory than I have. Just that I think it’s a sign of more serious problems.

        But let’s remember, I’m not a doctor! 🙂


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 13, 2017 @ 2:53 PM

    • That makes me even more suspicious that some sort of neurological “event” has occurred.

      Call your neurologist for an appointment. Please.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 12, 2017 @ 9:45 PM

  10. Hi Phylis – I’ll try to do what you suggest when I speak to my doctor tomorrow. I do totally understand that you can only offer thoughts based on your experience – I promise I don’t expect you to be a doctor in any way so don’t be concerned about that. I’ll update you after I speak to my doctor.


    My husband has helped me to rephrase some of this so it should be more readable!!


    Comment by Margaret — November 13, 2017 @ 3:22 PM

    • Good luck and please keep me posted.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 13, 2017 @ 4:37 PM

      • Don’t forget our time differnece so odn’t think I ma ignoringing you. Do you see – I did this particularly weird “repetetive wording ” thing with th eword “ignoring” It happens all th etime.


        Comment by Margaret — November 13, 2017 @ 5:25 PM

  11. Not to worry, Margaret.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — November 13, 2017 @ 6:00 PM

    • Hi Phylis – I have just done as I promised you and been to my own doctor and had a long converversation with her. I told her how very worried I was about all the “additional” symptoms I was having. She listened very attentiviely. She agrees with you about the possible reasons for them including a the possibility of a tumour (I didn’t tell her the suggestions came from someone else!!!). Following her demand, she has finally received the report of the in-depth EEG back in Septemtember and all it really says is that the seizure I had then then lasted 30 mins as a straightforward seizure but had follow up reactions that carried on for another 30 mins but they can give no reason for this happening. It was a veyr complex one all round. After the tonic/clonic part (which lasted longer than they would have expected) I then evidently spoke in English for part of the time and then as I can round a bit more, began to speak in French!!

      She (my own doctor) is organanising an appoinointment for another MRI scan – had jhad one about 1 year ago – and also for another “memory” test (had one 2 years ago) so we wil have to see where we go from there. In th emeantime she has put me on a very mild dose of an anti-depressant to see if that helps me to lift my moral – not sure how I feel about that but I started to cry in her consukting rom!!!

      So I just have ot take it from here, i guess.It doesn’t seem to make much sense to start asking to go to Paris until get these tests? Thanks again for your support. I’ll let you know what it happening from now on.



      Comment by Margaret — November 14, 2017 @ 6:46 AM

  12. Phylis – Great news. I got a call at the house yesterday evening from my specialist, saying that my own doctor had called her with real concerns about how things were with me; so she, after a long conversation with
    me, is admitting me to her neurology ward tomorrow for 4 or 5 days to run a raft of in depth tests – including a lumbar puncture (ouch!!). So, thank you SO much for giving me the encouragement that I needed to insist on more help from my medics!! I don’t know if I will have any internet connection in the hospital but I will keep you up to date whenever I can.

    Thank you again


    Comment by Margaret — November 16, 2017 @ 3:06 AM

    • Margaret,
      When I started having seizures out of no where 15 years ago, I had no idea how to deal with it, beyond taking the prescription drugs, I was given by the hospital emergency room doctors.
      When my seizures persisted, I was assigned to a Neurologist & I was told to follow up with the Neurologist.
      Frustrated with the Neurologist’s prescriptions failing to stop my seizures, I asked the Neurologist point blank,
      1. Can brain surgery stop my seizures?
      2. Do you know HOW to do the brain surgery that could stop my seizures?

      My unexpected questions seem to shock the Neurologist & asked me back,,, “Are you sure, you want to do this (brain surgery)? It’s a very complicated process”.

      Now, my Neurologist noticed, I desperately needed more than just prescription drugs to stop my Seizures.
      Soon after, my Neurologist set up for more tests in Stanford University Hospital to find out if brain surgery can help stop my seizures.
      Staying in Stanford University Hospital bed, I ended up having two grand mal seizures in a week, being recorded on video cameras & MRI machines.
      Finally, Stanford University decided I was NOT good candidate for brain surgery but recommended changing & raising my prescription drugs to control my seizures.
      Thanks to my Neurologist & Stanford University hospital, now my seizures are NOT as sever & frequent as I started with.
      In the end, I would like to point out that the best advocates for our wellbeing is the patients who are living through the adversity, therefore should demand more from the very professional establishments, we have come to trust & entrusted our lives with.
      Wishing all the best, I hope you get the help you need for your wellbeing.


      Comment by BahreNegash Eritrea — November 17, 2017 @ 3:38 AM

      • Thank you for taking the time to reply. I am writing this from my iPhone which is more difficult for me just now as my typing isn’t as controlled as it should be so this will be shorter than your email deserves I agree so much with you about “us” being the best judges of when we need more than we are being given or offered. I have had to fight back several times over the last 12 years before getting the treatment I needed. I now live in France instead of my native Scotland so have a new system/language to cope with. Let’s hope I’m getting somewhere at last


        Comment by Margaret — November 18, 2017 @ 9:05 AM

  13. Lupus, is an autoimmune disease which can go hand and hand with epilepsy.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Lisette — June 12, 2018 @ 11:42 AM

  14. Thank you so much for this and other articles. After having 2 induced seizures last November and then 2 severe, sudden seizures on Jan 18 I experienced extreme abdominal pain. I went to an internist who found Celiac disease. He stressed no correlation between the seizure and the pain. I will def be showing him these articles.

    Since my diagnosis I have been gluten free and finally been able to lose 13 lbs, going from 138 to 126 on a 5’0 frame. I am also sleeping all night. I do hope my seizures subside. Thank you again. I will keep you apprised if my doctor’s response to these articles.
    Barbara Monroe


    Comment by Barbara Monroe — June 12, 2018 @ 11:56 AM

  15. Hi for the past 4 months I do have pain in my leg(veins) what do you think is it something to do with epilypsy. Thanks


    Comment by leone — June 13, 2018 @ 7:21 AM

    • I really don’t know.

      It could be varicose veins or a side-effect from your meds.

      I would ask your doc for sure.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 13, 2018 @ 11:14 AM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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