Teens with epilepsy at greater risk of poisoning

"More research is needed to understand why people with epilepsy have a greater number of medicine-related poisonings and whether the poisonings are intentional or accidental," says Vibhore Prasad. "The risk of a poisoning in the next five years for 1,000 people with epilepsy is about 20 extra poisonings compared to people who do not have epilepsy." (Credit: Kristy/Flickr)

Children and young adults with epilepsy are more likely to suffer poisonings, broken bones, and burns compared to those without the neurological disorder, research shows.

The new study also shows that young people with epilepsy are more than twice as likely to be poisoned by medication. This jumps to four times the risk in patients aged between 19 and 24 years old.

The patients, all aged between 12 months and 24 years old at the time of their diagnosis, are also almost one and a half times more likely to suffer a burn-related injury and almost 25 percent more at risk of breaking an arm or leg.

The study authors say the findings highlight the need for further research into whether young people with the condition are at greater risk from an accidental or intentional overdose of their epilepsy drugs or other medication. Doctors and other healthcare professionals should warn epilepsy patients of the increased risk associated with their illness.

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“More research is needed to understand why people with epilepsy have a greater number of medicine-related poisonings and whether the poisonings are intentional or accidental,” says Vibhore Prasad, of the division of primary care at the University of Nottingham.

“This is the first study in the UK population to estimate the risk of fractures, burns, and poisonings. The risk of a poisoning in the next five years for 1,000 people with epilepsy is about 20 extra poisonings compared to people who do not have epilepsy.”

More injuries

Epilepsy is a chronic condition caused by a sudden burst of electrical activity in the brain, causing a temporary interruption in the way the brain normally works and resulting in a seizure. In the UK alone there are more than 600,000 people with epilepsy.

Previous studies into the condition have suggested that these seizures—and the side effects caused by some anti-epilepsy drugs—put patients at a greater risk of accidental injuries.

However, most research may have overestimated this risk because they focused primarily on people with more severe epilepsy, such as institutionalized adults or those being treated in epilepsy clinics.

The new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, is the first to investigate the potential risk of injury exclusively in children and young people with and without epilepsy.

The research, which was carried out in association with scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, used general practitioner records from almost 12,000 patients with epilepsy to study the incidence of injury over an average of two and a half years and compared it with the records of around 47,000 non-epileptic people.

Doctors and other healthcare professionals can use the findings to make children and young adults diagnosed with epilepsy, and their parents, more aware of the risk of injury and to inform existing guidelines on treatment.

In particular, researchers cite the need for more information relating to the safe storage of medicines and the supervision of children while taking their medication to be given by doctors at the time of prescribing and by pharmacists when dispensing prescriptions.

Source: University of Nottingham