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Rough Neighborhood, Worse Epilepsy?

TUESDAY, Dec. 4, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Living in a high-crime neighborhood may make epilepsy worse, a small study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago looked at 63 epilepsy patients in Chicago. Residents of high-crime neighborhoods had significantly more seizures than residents of safer areas, the study found.

"On average, people in high-crime neighborhoods had three seizures versus one for people living in low-crime neighborhoods when we looked back over the last 30 days," said study author Jessica Levy.

Over 90 days, people in high-crime neighborhoods had an average of seven seizures compared to three for those in low-crime neighborhoods, "so the link between crime and seizure activity is significant," Levy said in a university news release.

She's a research coordinator in the neurology and rehabilitation department.

Having more seizures can interfere with work, relationships and the ability to live independently. Seizures can also cause falls that result in broken bones, and there can be a stigma associated with having a seizure in public, the researchers noted.

The study can't prove that violence and crime trigger seizures. Still, the study "underscores the need for further research that might allow clinicians to make better-informed recommendations for self-management education and stress management skills," said study co-author Dr. Dilip Pandey. He's an associate professor of neurology and rehabilitation at the university's College of Medicine.

Epilepsy, a brain disorder, affects more than 65 million people worldwide. About one-third have difficulty controlling their seizures even with medication.

Stress is believed to be a common trigger of epileptic seizures. Previous research has shown that people who live in high-crime neighborhoods have elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, the researchers pointed out.

The study was presented in New Orleans at the American Epilepsy Society annual meeting, which concluded Tuesday. Research presented at meetings is usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on epilepsy.

December 4, 2018
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