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Suicide risk for epilepsy patients

Healthcare professionals are being warned that people with epilepsy may be three times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

A new study reveals a higher risk of suicide among epilepsy patients, and shows that women with the condition are more likely to kill themselves than men.

And people diagnosed with epilepsy in the previous six months are at an even higher risk of taking their own lives, it added.

The findings have been published online and in the August edition of The Lancet Neurology.

A team led by Dr Jakob Christensen and Dr Per Sidenius, of Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark, studied 21,169 suicide cases taken from the Cause of Death Register in Denmark between 1981 and 1997.

A further 423,128 "control" cases matched by sex, birth year and date were also analysed.

They found that 492 of the suicide cases - 2.32% - had epilepsy, compared with 3,140 of the "control" subjects, or 0.74%.

The charity Epilepsy Action said: "The figures from The Lancet Neurology press release do not come as a surprise to us, as they have been quoted in other pieces of research.

"However, the figures do show the impact that a diagnosis of epilepsy can have on someone's life.

"Uncontrolled seizures and drug side-effects can have a devastating effect on the quality of life for people with the condition. Many aspects can be affected like employment, schooling, and social life."

Aarhus University Hospital

The Lancet Neurology

Related story: Epilepsy sufferers deserve better care

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"I was not even aware that epileptics had suicidal tendencies but it makes sense that following each major seizure there are brain changes plus the hopelessness off the disease" - Urmla Jenkins, Kent