Epilepsy Talk

When it’s not “just” epilepsy… | July 5, 2021

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, depression 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. Is anyone keeping track of persons with diagnosed epilepsy and their statistics regarding the Covid 19? How many vaccinate? How many have reactions to the vaccine? What are their most common reactions? What is the mortality rate for epileptics, vaccinated or not vaccinated? What is the recovery rate for them? What effects do AEDs have on standard Covid treatments or vice versa ?How is the pandemic affecting their ability to keep employment or to travel if they do not or can not take the vaccine?

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by Andrea Kay Whitcomb — July 5, 2021 @ 9:30 AM

  2. Reblogged this on Disablities & Mental Health Issues.


    Comment by Kenneth — July 5, 2021 @ 9:38 AM

  3. I’m interested in knowing how many people have both epilepsy and ADHD or Tourettes.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Dewey — July 5, 2021 @ 9:49 AM

  4. Phylis, I just unsubscribed. I am ill/disabled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (since May 1995 or 26 years) that led into a pre-leukemic condition, Epilepsy, Celiac Disease, and a myriad of other health issues.  Your insight and communication has helped me TREMENDOUSLY.  I will be back soon.  Peace to you! Mary+Ellen Jacobs Pottstown, Montgomery County, PA (outside of Phila) nolems@comcast.net  

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by me jacobs — July 5, 2021 @ 10:07 AM

    • Oh Mary Ellen, I’m so very sorry. I wish you well and hope you’ll have the strength and energy to come back soon.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 5, 2021 @ 10:46 AM

  5. My daughter was diagnosed with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy around puberty. We could not get her seizures controlled for two years until she we also learned she has a genetic disorder called late-onset congenital adrenal hyperplasia. When she began taking a daily steroid for that disorder, her seizures all but disappeared. We don’t know how, but the two conditions are obviously linked. We hope one day to have more answers. Thanks for the article!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Noelle Smith — July 5, 2021 @ 11:23 AM

  6. Wow. What a godsend. How did you find out? Was your daughter genetically tested? Did anyone in the family have a history of epilepsy or adrenal hyperplasia?

    I’m fascinated.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 5, 2021 @ 11:40 AM

    • We were constantly searching online for information about seizures. After tracking her seizures with a journal we realized she was having them in times of stress- her period, after an argument, before a big test, etc.. We found a neuro-endocrinologist in New York, Dr. Alan Jacobs, whose website had information about catamenial seizures. We made an appointment via Skype, and he just started asking questions about her response to stress. We had her tested for the genetic disorder that Dr. Jacobs suspected here in Nashville and found out that she did indeed have it. He mentioned that it is very likely someone in our family has the condition, but many people never know they have it because seizures aren’t part of the condition. Basically with LOCAH, people’s bodies stop creating enough cortisone during stressful situations. That’s why taking daily steroids helps with cortisone levels. With the steroids, she could calm down, which meant practically no more seizures. No one in our families has been diagnosed with epilepsy or LOCAH, but my husband and I were told we must be carriers somehow. It is fascinating. She’s 22 now, and doing great! Graduated with honors from college, and has a wonderful, supportive boyfriend. She still takes lamictal daily since she has had an occasional seizure, but there has only been one in the past year and a half. We feel very lucky.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Noelle Smith — July 5, 2021 @ 12:12 PM

  7. Noelle, Kudos to you! And your daughter, too.

    Especially in light of the bravery and perseverance that got you through.

    In my infinite ignorance, I would have guessed it was Catamenial Epilepsy, because of the timing.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 5, 2021 @ 12:24 PM

  8. After my brain tumor surgery my seizures didn’t start until i was weened off of Steroids.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Zolt — July 5, 2021 @ 6:13 PM

  9. Like many people, I have anxiety and depression, along with some mild OCD (unwanted thoughts), but I also have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Hetty Eliot — July 5, 2021 @ 9:35 PM

  10. Hetty, do you take tablets for your Hashimoto’s or did you need surgery? Or both?


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 6, 2021 @ 8:01 AM

    • No, right now I don’t need to do anything. Although the antibodies are elevated, my thyroid numbers are normal. My thyroid is a wee bit inflamed but not enough to warrant anything. The weird thing with Hashimoto’s is that it can give you hypothyroid symptoms but your numbers are fine. So many women (almost always women) go undiagnosed for years because doctors only check those, not the antibodies.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Hetty Eliot — July 7, 2021 @ 8:21 AM

      • Hetty, I was tested for Hashimoto, which turned out to be a false alarm. But I do take Synthroid every day.


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 7, 2021 @ 8:25 AM

  11. I have had epilepsy 43 years but also now have diabetes 2 (insulin), macro pituatory tumour (luckily now shrank), had an extradural haemotoma, pcos, under active thyroid and depression

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Clare Armstrong — July 6, 2021 @ 11:15 AM

  12. OMG Clare! You must be in infinite pain.

    I’m so sorry. 😢


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 6, 2021 @ 11:21 AM

  13. It appears anxiety and depression cannot be surgically removed. I still have both.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Ed Lugge — July 6, 2021 @ 3:38 PM

  14. I know this won’t exactly do the trick, but:

    Some Stress and Anxiety Solutions… https://epilepsytalk.com/2021/03/08/some-stress-and-anxiety-solutions/


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 6, 2021 @ 3:47 PM

  15. My eldest was diagnosed autistic before epilepsy. However it was clear *after* he had his first tonic-clonic, that all those eye-crossings/stare spells/daydreaming that the doctors told us we were being hysterical about were siezures, since birth. I wonder if the epilepsy caused the autism.
    Probably, did feed the developmental delay…

    Now I have a baby with seizures we could already recognize from two weeks old. Hopefully the medication will work well enough to prevent any developmental-communicational delays from being fed.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Hagai Reiner — July 7, 2021 @ 5:01 PM

  16. Hagai, in terms of epilepsy and autism, you might find this article interesting:

    Epilepsy and Autism https://epilepsytalk.com/2013/10/06/epilepsy-and-autism/


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — July 7, 2021 @ 6:11 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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