Can Alzheimer’s Cause Seizures?
For 10-22% of patients with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, have at least 1 unprovoked seizure. The seizures occur mainly in the later stages of the disease. On average, this is 6 years into the course of the disease. In case seizures do occur in the early onset of the disease, then it is particularly because of a familial presenilin I mutation.
According to many studies, Alzheimer’s patients are at an increased risk of developing seizures and epilepsy. Diagnosing seizures in patients with Alzheimer’s is difficult because the manifestation of the partial seizures may be hard to recognize and distinguish from other behaviors that are common in these patients.
Generally, Alzheimer’s patients have 6 to 10 fold increased risk of developing seizures during the course of their illness. Most of these seizures are the convulsive types but there is also an occurrence of partial seizures without convulsive character.
Alzheimer’s seizures occur at later stages of the disease due to the increasing accuracy of the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, the increasing age and the increasing severity of the neurodegenerative process.
Other risk factors that increase the risk of an Alzheimer’s patient suffering from seizures:
- Patients of African-American ethnicity
- Antipsychotic-cholinesterase inhibitor drugs
Seizures in Alzheimer’s patients are usually infrequent. The seizures can be treated by specific antiepileptic drugs or AEDs. The drugs have better effects on younger patients.
Unfortunately, the drugs can cause adverse effects on elderly Alzheimer’s patients such as dizziness, unsteadiness and lethargy. Since it so far cannot be cured, it can be treated, making it more tolerable if caught early, but Alzheimer’s cannot go away.
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