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Epilepsy, Schizophrenia May Share Genetic Link

Individuals with one disorder are at increased risk for the other, study finds

FRIDAY, June 17, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- People with a history of epilepsy are at increased risk for schizophrenia and the two conditions may share common environmental or genetic causes, a Danish study suggests.

"We think that this study is the first, on a population level, to show that a family history of epilepsy increased the risk of schizophrenia or schizophrenia-like psychosis even after adjusting for the effects of personal history of epilepsy and other factors," researchers at the University of Aarhus conclude in the June 17 online issue of the British Medical Journal.

"This finding suggests that genetic or environmental factors shared by family members may have an important role," they add.

The researchers examined data on more than 2.27 million people born in Denmark between 1950-1987. They found that individuals with a history of epilepsy were at nearly 2.5 times the risk of developing schizophrenia, and nearly three times the risk of developing a schizophrenia-like psychosis, compared to people in the general population.

This risk was the same for men and women, and increased with age.

The study also found that a family history of epilepsy and of psychosis were major risk factors for schizophrenia and schizophrenia-like psychosis.

The increased risk did not differ by type of epilepsy, the researchers add. However, the older people were when they were first admitted to hospital for epilepsy, the greater their risk for schizophrenia or schizophrenia-like psychosis.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about schizophrenia.

SOURCE: BMJ, news release, June 17, 2005
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