Is there any connection between multiple sclerosis and epilepsy?
Answers from B Mark Keegan, M.D.
Epileptic seizures are more common in people who have multiple sclerosis (MS) than in those who don't have MS. The prevalence of seizures in people without MS is estimated to be less than 1 percent, while about 2 to 3 percent of people with MS are thought to have active seizures. Up to 8 percent of people with MS are estimated to have ever had a seizure.
Exactly why these seizures occur more often in people with MS isn't completely understood. MS lesions in certain areas of the brain may trigger these seizures. However, lesions are very common in MS, and seizures are unusual, so there are probably other factors that play a role in seizures, too.
Seizures may be the first noticeable sign of MS before diagnosis. Seizures may also occur during times when MS symptoms flare up, and in some cases may be the only sign of a flare of MS. But, the majority of seizures occur unrelated to MS relapses, and the occurrence of a seizure soon before diagnosis of MS may just be a chance occurrence.
Most seizures can be controlled with anti-seizure medication.
May 14, 2015
- Lund C, et al. Multiple sclerosis and seizures: Incidence and prevalence over 40 years. Acta Neurologica Scandinavica. 2014;130:368.
- Olek MJ. Symptom management of multiple sclerosis in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 15, 2015.
- Sponsler JL, et al. Seizures as a manifestation of multiple sclerosis. Epileptic Disorders. 2011;13:401.