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Epilepsy - higher risk of drowning
[Posted: Tue 19/08/2008 by Deborah Condon www.irishhealth.com]
People with epilepsy appear to have a significantly higher risk of drowning compared to people without the condition, the results of a new study indicate.
Epilepsy is caused by abnormal electrical impulses in the brain and is characterised by recurring seizures. Up to 40,000 people in Ireland are thought to have the condition.
Previous studies have shown a higher risk of drowning among people with epilepsy, most likely due to seizures. However this study is one of the first to show exactly how high this risk may be.
UK researchers compiled information from 50 epilepsy studies carried out around the world, which followed participants for the equivalent of more than 200,000 patient years. They also looked at population data and national registries to determine how many drowning deaths had occurred.
They found that a total of 88 people with epilepsy died by drowning. However if the rates found in the general population had applied, just 4.7 deaths by drowning would have been expected.
The study showed that people with epilepsy had a 15-19 times higher risk of drowning compared to people who did not have epilepsy. That risk was highest in people with epilepsy and a learning disability, those in institutional care and those who had undergone brain surgery but were not seizure-free.
"It is important that people with epilepsy and their caregivers take steps to prevent these tragedies. People with active epilepsy should shower instead of bathe, take medication regularly to control seizures and should have direct supervision when swimming,” explained study author, Dr Ley Sander of the University of London Institute of Neurology.
The study also found that this increased risk of drowning may not be as great in children with epilepsy when compared with adults. However this may simply be due to the fact that children are more likely to be better supervised when swimming, the researchers said.
Details of these findings are published in the medical journal, Neurology.
For more information on epilepsy, see our Epilepsy Clinic at…http://www.irishhealth.com/clin/epilepsy/
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