National Epilepsy Day: What Connects Epilepsy and ASD

National Epilepsy Day: What Connects Epilepsy and ASD

Bajaj Finserv Health
November 15, 20225 mins read


Epilepsy is common in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Depending on the patient's age and kind of condition, the rate of comorbidity varies. But the current estimate of comorbidity cases is 20-25% of the entire spectrum.

Key Takeaways

  • Neurological abnormalities and some related medical illnesses are major risk factors for seizures
  • National Epilepsy Day falls within the New Born Care Week that is held from 15-21 November
  • Epileptic disorders coexist with autism, resulting in autistic epileptiform regression

What is Epilepsy?

On this National Epilepsy Day 2022, let's try to understand what epilepsy is. Abnormal brain activity resulting in seizures is characteristic of epilepsy. The patient may also experience episodes of strange behaviour and loss of consciousness. 

Various types of seizures can occur. During a seizure, some people with epilepsy just blankly stare for a short time while others continuously jerk their arms or legs. Therefore, one seizure may not necessarily indicate epilepsy. A diagnosis of epilepsy typically requires a minimum of two unprovoked seizures occurring at least 24 hours apart.

Focal Seizures

Focal seizures appear to be caused by abnormal activity in a single brain region 

Generalised Seizures

These seizures affect all brain parts and differ from focal seizures

National Epilepsy Day - symptoms of Epilepsy

National Epilepsy Day

The Epilepsy Foundation of India created National Epilepsy Day. It was done as a national campaign to lower the prevalence of epilepsy in India. Dr Nirmal Surya founded the Epilepsy Foundation of India in Mumbai, Maharashtra, in 2009. The foundation's mission is to improve the quality of life for people who experience seizures. It also aims to change society's perceptions of epilepsy.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that there are 50 million people with epilepsy worldwide. According to the same estimation, 80% of people with epilepsy reside in developing nations [1]. Even though epilepsy is curable, several affected people in underdeveloped countries do not get the necessary care. About 10 million people in India experience seizures linked to epilepsy.

 What is Autism?

Knowing about Autism on National Epilepsy Day is equally important. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is an impairment of development caused by changes or variations in the brain. Some people affected by ASD have a genetic disorder. Other factors that cause ASD are still unknown. ASD is thought to be caused by several underlying reasons that alter how people usually develop. 

Individuals with ASD may behave, communicate and learn differently. Most of the time, their appearance does not distinguish them from others, and they might even have a wide range of abilities. For example, some people with ASD are nonverbal. Others might have excellent conversational skills. On the other hand, some people with ASD need a lot of assistance in their daily life, while others may function independently. 

Additional Read: World Autistic Pride Day: 8 approaches to autism treatment therapy National Epilepsy Day -13

The link between Epilepsy and ASD 

On National Epilepsy Day, it's crucial to know the link between epilepsy and Autism. 

A wide range of additional illnesses frequently co-occurs with Autism. However, epilepsy may be the most common one. Some reports claim that over half of all autistic people also have epilepsy, indicating a biological link between the two illnesses. For instance, both disorders include excessive brain activity. 

Autism was often thought to be a psychiatric response of very young children to poor parenting. The first major setback to that idea came in the 1960s when it was discovered that some people with Autism also had epilepsy. 

Numerous studies have demonstrated that people with autism experience seizures more frequently. 

Subclinical complex absences make it difficult to diagnose epilepsy in individuals with Autism clinically. This difficulty might occur because these absences can be confused for other infantile behaviours. These might include failing to react to one's name or refusing to participate in an activity initiated by someone else. In addition, it can be challenging to identify seizures from the odd repetitive behaviours seen in autistic children, such as tic-like motions. 

Autism and seizure types can both be linked. However, the prevalence of epilepsy and the kinds of seizures appear to differ depending on the community under investigation. 

A Finnish study from 1981 suggested a relationship between infantile spasms and Autism. Despite these few observations, it is yet unknown how infantile spasms and Autism are related.

Do the genetic risk factors for epilepsy and Autism overlap? 

Several pieces of evidence point to a shared genetic relationship between Autism and epilepsy. 

  1. A 2013 study stated a significant gene overlap between epilepsy and Autism. Additionally, even if they do not themselves have Autism, children who have an older brother with Autism are 70% more likely to have seizures, according to a 2016 study [2].
  2. Researchers have connected epilepsy and Autism to abnormalities in several genes. These include SCN2A and HNRNPU. In addition, tuberous sclerosis and Phelan-McDermid syndrome are two genetic disorders related to Autism that are also linked to epilepsy.  
  3. According to one idea, epilepsy and ASD have similar biological processes. For example, the hallmark of epilepsy is excessive brain excitement. It may result from insufficient inhibition. Autism may be caused by an imbalance between excitement and inhibition in the brain, according to a seminal 2003 study. Studies have produced evidence supporting this notion. However, many professionals are still in doubt.

Epilepsy is also connected with Pneumonia. According to research, 514 out of 4101 children having Pneumonia also experienced seizures. Follow the trends of World Pneumonia Day (Held on 12th November) to know more about the connection between these two diseases, as early detection is always the best way to prevent these medical conditions.

On National Epilepsy Day, find doctors and schedule appointments with Bajaj Finserv Health. This will help you clear all doubts regarding the connection between epilepsy and Autism. You can also gain insight into other important days, such as World Brain Tumour Day, World Toilet Day, etc. 

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Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.

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