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Epilepsy And Parkinson’s Disease: Exploring The Connection

Epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease, although separate conditions, may have a connection based on emerging research. Research published on 24 January 2024 revealed that people with epilepsy are twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than those without it, according to a study from South Korea.

However, there is still a lot to learn about the relationship between the two conditions. Here’s a rundown of what we know.

A Brief Introduction to Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a condition that affects the electrical activity in the brain, resulting in recurrent seizures. The cause of this is typically unclear.

There are different types of seizures, and each person with epilepsy will experience them differently. Some seizures are very physical, causing the body to shake or jerk. Other seizures, though, are less noticeable, such as an absence seizure, which causes a person to lose awareness of their surroundings temporarily.

Epilepsy can pose risks to your physical and mental health. However, the right treatment can reduce or even avoid many of these risks altogether. Treatment of epilepsy typically involves medication and lifestyle changes to help control seizures. Neurosurgeons may offer brain surgery to patients who have tried more than one medication without success in controlling their seizures.

If you think you may have experienced a seizure or any other symptoms of epilepsy, contact your GP for advice. If you are diagnosed with epilepsy or if you are advised that it is possible you may have the condition, be sure to consider investing in an epilepsy alarm.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease, or PD, is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder. PD occurs as a result of a loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain responsible for producing dopamine. Dopamine acts as a messenger, helping to connect the different areas of the brain and nervous system responsible for coordinating movement.

Therefore, a loss in dopamine-producing nerve cells will affect physical movement. The cause of the nerve cell damage is unclear, but it is believed to be a result of both genetic and environmental factors.

Each person with PD will experience it differently. The most common symptoms, though, include involuntary shaking, slow movement and stiffness. If left untreated, PD can lead to other complications such as sleep problems, depression, nerve pain and speech difficulties.

Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s Disease, but there is treatment available to help manage its symptoms. PD is most commonly treated with medication, though some patients may undergo physiotherapy or even surgery as symptoms progress.

Lifestyle changes, such as dietary changes or exercise, can also help manage PD symptoms. However, you should always consult your doctor before making any major changes to your lifestyle.

The Connection Between Epilepsy and Parkinson’s Disease

Research is beginning to indicate a possible relationship between epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. For example, a study in 2018 revealed that the risk of seizures is increased in individuals with PD compared to those without the disease.

More recently, a study from South Korea found that the likelihood of developing PD is twice as high for individuals with epilepsy. This study involved 10,510 patients, with 5255 in the epilepsy group and 5255 in the non-epilepsy group. The risk of Parkinson’s disease was 2.19 times higher in the epilepsy group than in the group of those without epilepsy.

It’s clear from these statistics that a relationship exists, but researchers admit that they do not yet understand why.

There are some known similarities between the two conditions. We know that a chemical imbalance in the brain plays a role in both epilepsy and PD. Exploring the role of neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine, in both these conditions could help find the connection between epilepsy and PD.

There is also a correlation between the age group most impacted by Parkinson’s disease and the highest occurrence of new-onset epilepsy, both being adults over 60. However, further investigation is needed to understand this connection.

In the meantime, we can support those with these conditions by raising awareness of them. Awareness days, such as World Parkinson’s Day or Purple Day, help to promote research and build support networks, improving the lives of those affected by these conditions.

Further, if you have epilepsy, you could encourage your doctor or GP to conduct early screening and monitoring for PD in people with epilepsy.

The effects of epilepsy and Parkinson’s Disease vary from person to person. Catching a problem early on and providing the correct care is important in managing symptoms and improving quality of life. You can learn more about these two conditions from the following resources:

  • Epilepsy Foundation offers 24/7 help to anyone interested in or affected by epilepsy.
  • As a leading organisation in the field, Parkinson’s UK works to improve the quality of life for individuals with PD and their families.

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