Epilepsy Talk

Autoimmune Epilepsy — Cause of Previously Unexplained Seizures? | March 10, 2020

Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) are the mainstay of treatment for epilepsy, but seizures continue in one-third of patients despite appropriate AED therapeutic trials.

Even in the current era, the etiology of epilepsy often remains unclear.

Some patients with unexplained partial seizures which are medication resistant may have “autoimmune epilepsy” — epilepsy characterized by autoimmune antibodies.

Although autoimmune epilepsy is still rare, it’s become an increasingly recognized cause of epilepsy, which might have been previously thought to be of unknown cause.

What is the immune system and what are the types of immune disorders?

Your immune system protects the body from the bad guys —infections and foreign substances that invade the body and cause disease.

White blood cells, or leukocytes, are on the prowl throughout the body in blood vessels and monitor for viruses, bacteria, or foreign substances that may cause a problem.

Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system and attack infections or foreign substances.

In contrast, autoimmune disorders are groups of diseases which invade the immune system and attack the body’s healthy organs and tissues, as if they were foreign invaders.

What are the features of autoimmune epilepsy?

Autoimmune epilepsy is actually a group of invaders, and compromises the immune system to cause recurrent seizures, difficulty in thinking, emotions, or other brain functions.

What tests can be done to support autoimmune epilepsy?

First, other causes of epilepsy must be ruled out.

People should be evaluated for underlying brain infections such as encephalitis, meningitis, or abscess.

Blood and urine tests may detect genetic or metabolic conditions.

Auto-antibodies can also be detected by a lumbar puncture— a safe procedure where a needle is inserted into your lower back to draw out the cerebrospinal fluid which bathes the brain and surrounds the spinal cord in the back.

What are the treatments for autoimmune epilepsy?

In addition to using antiepileptic medications to control seizures, immunotherapy is used to treat autoimmune epilepsy.

Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) which can block and remove damaging auto-antibodies is simply a blood product of pooled antibodies collected from healthy volunteers.

IVIG or high doses intravenous steroids are given repeatedly, usually every week for about six weeks.

If there is a good result, then the time interval between IVIG or intravenous steroids is gradually increased (every other week followed by every three weeks).

Another option is plasma exchange if IVIG treatment and intravenous steroids are not helpful.

Plasma exchange draw the “bad” blood — filters and removes the harmful auto-antibodies and then returns.

However, Dr. P. Ian Andrews of Duke University said in an interview that he felt this blood-cleansing technique only provided a temporary solution because the body soon begins to generate antibodies again.

But he said it might find limited use in arresting severe, degenerating cases so that patients would have some temporary relief and doctors would get a chance to try alternative medications and treatments.

“The body should not make antibodies that eat up its own brain but, knowing this happens, it should point to other strategies for treatment,” Dr. Andrews said, “Perhaps we can find a way to selectively remove the bad antibody or develop a substance to block its activity.” 

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  1. Nothing here is mentions about how the FREE RADICALS are effected & can be a problem relating to the entire immune system. How will anti-bodies & free radicals interact that effect neurotransmitters makes them work normally or in an excited & fired up active mode, that ends up being a seizure ? All that man has made FOR OUR HELATHY DIETS are mainly a synthetic type of food & drink chemicals are effecting normal free radicals & neurotransmitters & neurons of the brain,, aka MSG, ASPARTAME & ALIKE & those things in a matter of minutes to decades DO & WILL make all brain health a mystery to THOSE who all say,, NO WAY,,, food chemicals are SAFE !! but many people like me know better. You can never tell the experts anything, as I hope every meal they have are saturated with MSG, ASPARTAME, NITRATES & NITRITES so they can learn it in a personal way as I have for over 55 years. TIC TOC TIC TOC TIC TOC TIC TOC then suddenly BOOM!!!!! & nothing gets remember just what happened, and i am sure nothing was a problem from food chemicals,, TIC TOC TIC TOC TIC TOC TIC TOC TIC TOC TIC TOC, then sooner than later there another attack on normal brain activity & it does not have to be a seizure but anything related to brain health can happen. I only eat my 5% or less of foods of any kind, & only drink WATER & MILK << that i know is not the best to drink, but I know my immune system seems to be between 90 to 100% strong as I know it is not perfect. My blood work every year is within all normal ranges because I STAY AWAY from any chemical & etc,,, that I know WILL effect all my brain chemistry & that results in a bad or under average immune system. ECHINECEA seems to help everything relating to make a human immune system stronger, and the AED's could maybe work better from taking it & having a stronger immune system. Keep having those bad chemicals & toxins though, you can never expect any changes for the better.


    Comment by James D — March 10, 2020 @ 4:57 PM

  2. Thanks James and no, I did not mention free radicals or toxins. That was not the point of the article.

    But I do appreciate your advice about Echinecea and it’s strengthening of the immune system. That’s advice all of us should take.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 10, 2020 @ 5:47 PM

  3. Hmmm 🤔


    Comment by Kathy S.B — March 10, 2020 @ 11:15 PM

  4. I wonder if they were to discover this with a person if their children would be able to donate to them? Just curious thank you Phylis 😊🙏🏼🦅😇😘

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kathy S.B — March 11, 2020 @ 9:33 PM

  5. Donate what?


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 11, 2020 @ 10:18 PM

  6. With possible transfusions if need be or even the type of cells that maybe required to help others. My daughter donates blood every few months and whenever she does my aunty always thanks her for keeping my aunty alive because she probably donated to her ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kathy S.B — March 11, 2020 @ 11:09 PM

    • That’s a selfless act of generosity.

      You should be commended for raising such a generous and loving daughter.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 12, 2020 @ 9:25 AM

      • Thank you Phylis, but really everyone who can should do that especially if it means we’re all helping eachother. I could be wrong, but that’s just how I think. 💗

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Kathy S.B — March 12, 2020 @ 4:52 PM

      • I was told I couldn’t donate blood because of my medications and same with my husband (he has diabetes, and high blood pressure), son (he’s asthmatic) and oldest daughter (also asthmatic).

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Kathy S.B — March 12, 2020 @ 4:56 PM

  7. Sorry my aunty has lupus and requires transfusions for her (I believe) white blood cells.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kathy S.B — March 11, 2020 @ 11:51 PM

  8. There multiple medications that will reduce immunoglobulin levels in epilepsy patients treated with levetiracetam, lamotrigine, carbamazepine, zonisamide

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Adam Drinkall — May 31, 2022 @ 4:11 PM

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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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