Seizures Uncommon in Alzheimer's Disease Patients

Less than 2 percent developed seizures during follow-up; younger age linked to risk

THURSDAY, Aug. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Seizures appear uncommon in patients with Alzheimer's disease, but they may be more likely to occur in younger patients, according to research published in the August issue of the Archives of Neurology.

Nikolaos Scarmeas, M.D., of the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues analyzed data from 453 patients with Alzheimer's disease who were followed for up to 14 years, starting at early disease stages. Informants periodically reported whether the patient had recently had a seizure -- defined as a convulsion, fainting, or "funny" spell -- or had been diagnosed or treated for epilepsy or seizures.

The researchers found that 52 patients had positive responses to at least one of these questions, and seven (1.5 percent) were judged to have had seizures. Being at a younger age was associated with a higher risk of seizures (hazard ratio, 1.23 for each additional year of age). No other predictor, including educational achievement, duration of illness, or time-dependent use of cholinesterase inhibitors, was found to be significant.

"Most seizures were generalized convulsions and non-recurrent. The observed incidence corresponds to less than one patient with a seizure for every 200 patients with Alzheimer's disease followed up over the course of one year. Therefore, we conclude that although seizures are more common in patients with Alzheimer's disease compared with the general population, they are a quite uncommon feature of Alzheimer's disease," the authors write.

A co-author reported financial relationships with Ortho-McNeil Janssen Scientific Affairs and Johnson & Johnson.

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