July 9, 2021

Patients with Epilepsy During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Depressive Symptoms and Their Association with Healthcare Access

Abstract, published in Epilepsy & Behavior

Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak impacted the lives of worldwide people with epilepsy (PWE) in various aspects, particularly in those countries most significantly affected by this pandemic, such as Brazil. We aimed to investigate the prevalence of depressive symptoms in PWE and their correlation with epilepsy features and access to treatment.

Methods: PWE were invited to answer a cross-sectional online-based survey to assess and rate depressive symptoms using the NDDI-E during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and its relation to multiple lifestyles epilepsy clinical aspects.

Results: A total of 490 PWE were recruited. The prevalence of depressive symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic was 35.3% (cutoff score > 15 on NDDI-E). The factors associated with higher NDDI-E scores were: female sex, increased seizure frequency, barriers to access to their treating physician and antiseizure medication, and unemployment. Regarding the pandemic impact on PWE healthcare, 29.2% reported restricted access to their medication, 46.1% barriers to access their physicians, 94.2% had their consultations canceled due to the pandemic, and 28.4% had seizure worsening in this period.

Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic affected people with epilepsy access to the healthcare system. Depressive symptoms were more severe in patients with higher seizure frequency who had difficulties obtaining proper medical care. The COVID-19 pandemic may impact the healthcare and mental wellbeing of patients with chronic diseases such as epilepsy. Nevertheless, prospective studies on epilepsy and COVID-19 are still lacking.

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