The risk is greatest among children and among those who were not hospitalized to be treated for COVID-19.
“While the overall risk of developing seizures or epilepsy was low – less than 1% of all people with COVID-19, given the large number of people who have been infected with COVID-19, this could result in increases in the number of people with seizures and epilepsy,” said study author Arjune Sen, MD, PhD, in a press release. “In addition, the increased risk of seizures and epilepsy in children gives us another reason to try to prevent COVID-19 infections in kids.”
Published this week in the journal Neurology, the study evaluated two groups – those infected with COVID-19 and those infected with the flu. Each group had 152,754 people who were followed for 6 months.
Those in the COVID-19 group were 55% more likely to develop epilepsy or seizures during that time, compared to those in the flu group. For the COVID-19 group, the incidence of epilepsy or seizures was 0.94%, compared to 0.60% for flu patients. Among children, the incidence was 1.34% among COVID-19 patients and 0.69% for flu patients.
One theory for the findings is that COVID-19 may cause problems with brain function by affecting the brain cells “that make up the lining of blood vessels or by causing inflammation, immune overreaction, or other mechanisms,” according to a summary of the study published by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.
Study authors said their research was limited by not knowing which variants of COVID-19 infected the patients.
Source: webmd.com, Lisa O’Mary