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Can Alzheimer's Disease Be a Cause of Seizures?

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Updated April 16, 2014

Alzheimer's disease may be a cause of seizures - in addition to causing dementia.

Dementia, a deterioration of intellectual functioning, usually presents itself as a loss of memory and changes in mood. Because of this memory impairment, dementia can interfere with social skills and everyday living. Dementia is mostly found in the elderly population. In fact, it is estimated that 4% to 12 % of people over the age of 65 are suffering from some form of dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and it is estimated that five million individuals have Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. Having Alzheimer’s disease not only places you at risk for memory loss –- it can also place you at risk of developing a seizure disorder.

Why Do Seizures Occur With Alzheimer’s Disease?

The development of Alzheimer’s disease progresses slowly. During this time, a protein called beta amyloid gradually accumulates in the brain and forms a plaque. While more research is needed to determine exactly how this occurs, it has been proposed that this plaque could cause nerve damage in the brain, which could lead to the decline of cognitive and motor function. These changes could also lead to an increased risk of seizures. The most common types of seizures seen in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease include partial complex seizures and generalized tonic-clonic seizures.

Not everyone with Alzheimer’s disease will experience a seizure; however, this can place them at a higher risk of having one. If someone with Alzheimer’s disease has a seizure, a healthcare provider will perform a careful assessment that includes blood tests, a CT scan or MRI, and an EEG to assess the seizure type and any other underlying cause for the seizure. From these tests, an antiepileptic medication will be selected to help control the seizures.

Source:

Mendez M, Lim L. Seizures in elderly patients with dementia: epidemiology and management. Drugs Aging 2003;20:791-803.

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