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Smoking linked to epilepsy

Women who smoke have a higher risk of developing seizures than non-smokers. Seizures arise from an episode of abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

Smoking linked to epilepsy

Women who smoke have a higher risk of developing seizures than non-smokers.

Seizures arise from an episode of abnormal electrical activity in the brain and its symptoms range from a brief staring spell or change in vision or sensations in the skin to convulsions and loss of consciousness. Epilepsy is diagnosed when a person suffers at least two unprovoked seizures. In some cases, seizures and epilepsy have an identifiable cause, such as head trauma or brain damage from a stroke. But more often, no specific cause can be found.

To look how smoking affects risk of developing epilepsy, researchers studied 116,363 U.S. nurses, aged between 25 and 42 years. Over 16 years of follow-up, 95 women suffered a seizure and 151 were diagnosed with epilepsy.

It was found that current smokers were between two to three times more likely than non-smokers to suffer a seizure. Smokers had a higher risk of having an isolated seizure than non-smokers, even when other risk factors, including history of stroke, were taken into account. Current smokers did not clearly show a higher risk of developing epilepsy, a disorder marked by recurrent seizures that are not provoked by a specific cause, such as a reaction to a drug. However, epilepsy risk was somewhat elevated among former smokers, who had a 46 percent higher risk than women who had never smoked.

The findings show smoking as a risk factor for epilepsy, which could be attributed to high levels of nicotine that have been found to trigger convulsions in both animals and humans. Smoking also diminishes the oxygen supply to body tissues and, via the stimulating effects of nicotine, can trigger sleep problems, both of which may contribute to seizures.
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