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Study: Epileptic Adults in High-Crime Neighborhoods Have Seizures More Often

U.S. News & World Report logo U.S. News & World Report 12/3/2018 Gaby Galvin

Police line tape. Crime scene investigation. Forensic science.: Knowledge of the potential impact of high-crime environments on seizure frequency could help doctors treat epileptic patients more effectively. © (Getty Images) Knowledge of the potential impact of high-crime environments on seizure frequency could help doctors treat epileptic patients more effectively. A new study points to a link between the level of crime in a community and the frequency of seizures suffered by adults with epilepsy.

Over the course of 30 days, epileptic people who lived in high-crime areas in Chicago had three seizures on average, compared with one seizure for those in low-crime communities in the city, according to the University of Illinois at Chicago study, which surveyed 63 adults with epilepsy who lived in the city.

Researchers cross-referenced police crime data with the specific neighborhoods of study participants to determine community crime levels. The gap persisted over a 90-day span: Those in high-crime areas had an average of seven seizures, compared with three in low-crime neighborhoods.

Epilepsy, a brain disorder that causes seizures, affects roughly 3.4 million people in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Epileptic seizures can last from a few seconds to five minutes or longer.

While the findings indicate there may be a significant link between neighborhood crime status and seizure activity, the actual driver of the seizures could be another factor related to high-crime neighborhoods, such as poverty or a lack of access to transportation, health care or other resources, says Jessica Levy, a research coordinator in the UIC Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation.

Previous research also indicates that living in a disadvantaged or violent neighborhood can cause stress in children. Stress may trigger seizures in epileptic people.

"The research is very preliminary and we haven't looked at any other contributing factors," Levy says. "It creates a new avenue for looking into why exactly this link exists – if it's the crime, or whether if it's some other characteristic of a high-crime neighborhood."

About a third of epileptic people struggle to control their seizures – even with medication – which can lead to injury and negatively impact quality of life, researchers said. Their findings are being presented Sunday at the American Epilepsy Society conference in New Orleans.

Knowledge of the potential impact of high-crime environments on seizure frequency could help doctors treat epileptic patients more effectively, researchers said.

"Understanding the impact of violence and crime as potential triggers for seizures underscores the need for further research that might allow clinicians to make better-informed recommendations for self-management education and stress management skills," Dr. Dilip Pandey, associate professor of neurology and rehabilitation at UIC, said in a statement.

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

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