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Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder in which there are surges of electrical activity in your brain that results in recurring seizures. A person might be diagnosed with epilepsy when they have at least two unprovoked seizures with no identifiable cause. Not all seizures are caused by epilepsy. As per the WHO, the risk of premature death in people with epilepsy is up to three times higher than for the general population. Though anybody can have epilepsy, it is more common in young children and older adults.
While scholars have been trying to find an association between neurological disorders and COVID-19, the research is limited to its connection with epilepsy and how the conditions might be impacting each other.
The currently available research has shown that apparently epilepsy doesn't increase a person's risk of contracting COVID-19. While the disease is typically not associated with worsening seizures, some people with epilepsy have been found to experience severe COVID-19 illness.
According to Dr Jyoti Bala Sharma, Director of the Neurology Department (Fortis Hospital, Noida), neurological complications can occur in cases of covid ranging from delirium, confusion, headache and even the development of epilepsy. There are various mechanisms by which the coronavirus can cause seizures.
She said: "The virus can directly enter the brain and trigger an inflammatory cascade leading to seizure episodes. The virus can also cause stroke or electrolyte imbalances and indirectly precipitate seizures. In an analysis of more than 300,000 individuals, those who had covid were 66% more likely than those with influenza to develop epilepsy or seizures during the first 6 months after infection."
Sharing a 2020 case study, the expert explained how a patient had experienced refractory status epilepticus due to post-infectious inflammation after recovering from COVID-19 infection.
According to the expert, the best way to prevent seizures due to SARS-CoV-2 infection is to avoid and limit exposure to the virus as much as possible.
Dr Sharma said: "Some people may have other health conditions that put them at higher risk from COVID-19. They may be taking medicines to control seizures that also affect their immune system (for example, ACTH, steroids, everolimus, and immunotherapies). It is important to note that most seizure medicines do not affect the immune system. Management of acute seizures in patients with COVID-19 as well as management of people who have epilepsy and COVID-19 needs to consider potential drug-drug interactions between antiseizure drugs and candidate drugs currently assessed as therapeutic options for COVID-19."
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