Research Shows COVID Infections May Increase The Risk Of Seizures And Epilepsy

Getting COVID-19 may increase your risk of having a seizure or an epilepsy diagnosis within six months, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology. In the study, researchers analyzed the health records of 152,754 people with COVID-19 and compared them with the same number of people who had been diagnosed with the flu, matching the two groups to be similar in age, sex, and other factors like underlying medical conditions (via American Academy of Neurology).

After looking too see if any patients developed seizures or were diagnosed with epilepsy within the next six months following infection, researchers found that COVID-19 patients were 55% more likely to develop them within this time span than patients who had the flu. This risk was also more prevalent among children than adults, as well as those who did not require hospitalization while they were infected. As it turns out, the rate of new cases of epilepsy or seizures was 0.94% for patients with COVID-19 and 0.60% for patients with the flu.

What's causing post-COVID seizures and epilepsy?

Researchers stress that the risk of developing seizures or epilepsy after getting COVID-19 is still low, with less than 1% of people with COVID-19 experiencing these symptoms (per American Academy of Neurology). That being said, the growing number of people who have contracted COVID-19 means there could be an increase in the number of post-COVID seizures and epilepsy (via HealthDay News). In addition, previous studies have already found a connection between COVID-19 and the development of other chronic illnesses, like brain fog, heart disease, and diabetes, among others.

Although it's still unclear why these COVID-19 patients had seizures, researchers have developed two different theories. For people with severe illness, researchers hypothesize that seizures may be brought on by sleep deprivation, electrolyte imbalance, or metabolic disturbances, per HealthDay News. For those with mild COVID-19, however, researchers believe that inflammation may be a contributing factor to the onset of post-infection seizures. Lead study author, Dr. Arjune Sen, told Science Daily that as a result, doctors should pay attention to "individuals who may have more subtle features of seizures, such as focal aware seizures, where people are alert and aware of what is going on, especially in the three months following a less severe COVID-19 infection."