Seizures are more prevalent in Alzheimer’s patients than previously thought, according to research studies presented this week at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2019.
These new studies show that seizures as well as epilepsy are much more common in people with Alzheimer’s disease than anyone realized.
In one study, dementia sufferers had about five times the risk of seizures and that, once they have one, they’re also likely to have repeated seizure episodes. Even a single seizure episode should serve as a warning for doctors to diagnose for epilepsy in these patients.
A connection between seizures and Alzheimer’s was also found in the second study. It followed nearly 21,000 people over 11 years and found that the prevalence of seizures was about 1.5 times higher in subjects with Alzheimer’s compared to those without it. In that study, the risk of seizures and epilepsy increased as the Alzheimer’s disease progressed over time.
These new findings suggest the need for doctors and caregivers to watch for symptoms in patients with Alzheimer’s.
Seizures: What Are The Symptoms?
The fastest-growing segment of epilepsy patients in the United States is over age 65, and their condition is potentially difficult to diagnose.
One reason is that seniors often don’t experience epilepsy symptoms until these later years, and they rarely have convulsions.
These symptoms include:
- Suspended awareness
- Hearing or seeing things
- Sporadic memory loss
Seniors tend to develop focal epilepsy, which impacts only a small portion of the brain. They may become anxious all of a sudden or be unaware of their surroundings. Staring for long periods of time is also a symptom.
In addition, they may develop unusual sensations, such as hearing or seeing things, or experience sporadic memory loss or confusion.
Indeed, the rate of epilepsy among people over age 65 is two to three times that of younger adults.
Clinicians should be aware of seizures in persons with Alzheimer’s disease, in order to provide best treatments.
If you are taking care of an aging parent and notice these symptoms, it’s important to see their doctor.