A frequent question regarding multiple sclerosis, or MS, is whether those who suffer from the condition are more prone to having epileptic seizures.
According to the Mayo Clinic, seizure prevalence in those who do not have MS is around 1%, while it is around 2% to 3% for those who do have MS. It is estimated that 8% of people who have MS have had a seizure.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
MS is a long-term disease that has the potential to affect many parts of the body including the brain, and the spinal cord, as well as the optic nerves in the eyes. Due to the areas of the body it effects, it can cause issues with a person’s vision, as well as, their balance and control of their muscles. It can also cause issues with other body functions.
Some of the common symptoms in those who are suffering from multiple sclerosis include problems walking, a feeling of tiredness, spasms or weakness in the muscles, pain, depression, problems with remembering, problems with focusing, poor control of bladder or bowels, vision problems, numbness and tingling sensations, and more. In some rare cases, having a seizure could be recognized as a presenting symptom (the main complaint for which a patient seeks treatment) that occurs with multiple sclerosis.
Because other conditions can have some of the same symptoms as multiple sclerosis, it is important to have a qualified physician perform the diagnosis. Certain proteins or drugs used to help treat MS, such as interferons and glatiramer acetate, can increase the chances of seizures. Dalfampridine, which has been approved by the FDA to help improve walking in patients with MS, could cause seizures, as well. The proper treatments to deal with MS and seizures will need to be discussed with your doctor.
When a patient complains of seizures the doctor will order diagnostic tests such as an MRI or EEG. Learn more about types of neurodiagnostic testing here.
Is There a Shared Pathology Between Multiple Sclerosis and Epilepsy?
While there does seem to be a correlation between multiple sclerosis and epilepsy, the exact relationship is not known well. Research from a study by the Epilepsy Study Group of the Italian Neurological Society, which was reported in Neurological Sciences, shows that patients who suffer from multiple sclerosis and have seizures tend to be younger when the MS begins.
The connection between the MS and the epileptic seizures is not fully understood. The meta-analysis study, headed by Sara Gasparini, MD, of the Magna Graecia University of Catanzaro in Italy, choose nine studies conducted between 1996 to 2014. The research found that there was a “younger age onset of MS by a mean difference of 5.42 (95% CI, −7.19 to −3.66; P <.001).”
While the researchers were able to find that there were links between multiple sclerosis and epilepsy, it was not possible to determine the potential causality of epilepsy in those who had MS. They believe there needs to be larger studies to learn more about the shared pathology of multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.