Undiagnosed Epilepsy Often Linked To Car Accidents: Study

New research highlights the risk of car accidents linked to undiagnosed, slowly on-setting epilepsy, which could result in sudden and unexpected seizures while operating an automobile.

Researchers with New York University Grossman School of Medicine indicate undiagnosed patients suffering from subtle seizures caused by focal epilepsy pose a serious risk for motorists, according to findings were published this week in the online medical journal Epilepsia.

Focal epilepsy is a neurological disease affecting approximately 50 million people worldwide, making it one of the most common. The disease typically causes seizures in one side of the brain and the person has no loss of awareness of their surroundings during it.

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These types of seizures are referred to as focal onset aware seizures, and can include brief hallucinations or déjà vu episodes and are not benign. These seizures can be extremely dangerous to a motor vehicle operator as they can last up to two minutes.

Researchers analyzed enrollment data from the Human Epilepsy Project, which consisted of 447 participants across the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia, to compare time to diagnosis and prediagnostic injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents.

The participants were categorized into two groups; those with non-motor seizures and those with motor seizures at epilepsy onset. Researchers found the median time to diagnosis from the first seizure was 10 times longer among patients with non-motor seizures.

Researchers discovered 23 motor vehicle accidents, with 19 of the incidents involving people with undiagnosed subtle seizures.

The findings highlight the fact focal epilepsy seizures are poorly recognized by patients, families and medical professionals, leaving individuals with the condition undiagnosed and untreated, which increases the risk of a vehicle crash.

Prior research has found focal epilepsy can be caused by genetic disorders which run in families. Knowing that genetic history could lead to early detection. Individuals with genetic epilepsy are often unaware of the disease’s onset due to the seizures occurring while they are asleep.

Focal epilepsy may also be caused by underlying structural abnormalities in the brain, making the diagnosis process even more difficult for medical professionals. Individuals with prior events of head trauma, stroke, infection, tumors could be at an increased risk of focal epilepsy.

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