May 21, 2024

Sleep Apnea Linked with Late-Life Epilepsy

Article published by U.S. News

New research suggests sleep apnea is related to late-life epilepsy. Late-onset epilepsy is defined as seizures that tend to begin only after the age of 60. The condition might be related to underlying heart or brain illnesses, noted study co-author Dr. Rebecca Gottesman, chief of the Stroke Branch at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “Compared to other age groups, older adults have the highest incidence of new cases of epilepsy — up to half of which have no clear cause.To learn more, Gottesman and colleagues perused data from more than 1,300 people enrolled in a study of sleep-disordered breathing and heart disease. The link between epilepsy and the breathing disorders of sleep apnea was strong. “People whose oxygen saturation fell below 80% during sleep, a condition known as nocturnal hypoxia, were three times more likely to develop late-onset epilepsy compared to those who did not have similarly low oxygen levels. People with any form of sleep apnea later in life were also twice as likely to be diagnosed with late-onset epilepsy. The study suggests that late-onset epilepsy might join other brain conditions, such as stroke and dementia, that appear to be more common among people with sleep apnea, the researchers said. “Discovering a reversible cause for the development of any type of idiopathic epilepsy is an aspirational goal for epilepsy researchers or clinicians,” said Carosella, an assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “We hope this study might be a small first step in that direction and also an encouragement to evaluate and treat sleep disorders in patients with epilepsy.