Saturday, January 17, 2009

Stress and seizures are not linked

Stress in the workplace has no effect on the incidence of seizures among people with epilepsy, the results of a new study indicate.Epilepsy is a neurological condition that is diagnosed when a person has recurrent seizures caused by excess electrical activity in the brain. An estimated 35,000 people in Ireland are affected, making it the most common serious neurological condition here.

According to researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel, people with epilepsy are often discriminated against in the workplace, partly because many employers do not want to hire them for fear that stress will bring on a seizure. However this latest study – the largest of its kind - suggests that these fears are groundless.

Over 300,000 people with no history of the condition were surveyed and their answers were compared to a sample of 16,000 people with epilepsy.The last major study to investigate the risk of occupational stress on epilepsy, reported a few years ago by the New England Journal of Medicine, was based on a sample size of only 200 people.

With such a large sample size in this study, Dr Shlomo Moshe was able to predict with high levels of certainty when - and whether - seizures might strike.“People are prejudiced against epileptics, who learn how to hide their condition very well. It becomes a problem when they’re trying to get work, because most employers avoid hiring epileptics.

But occupational physicians have been asking for years, ‘what are the real risks?’ Our new study provides the answer,” Dr Moshe insisted.Over a period of three years, the researchers compared the rate of seizures to the types of duties each group of subjects was assigned to perform – manual labour, combat fighting or office work.“

The type of assignment didn't affect a person’s chance of having a seizure at all. The biggest predictor of recurrence is time - when the last seizure struck. Those that had seizures more than five years ago have little to worry about today,” Dr. Moshe said.

He added that the findings should reassure those with the condition, as well as employers and health insurance companies.Details of these findings are published in the journal, Epilepsia.

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