Population-level evidence for an autoimmune etiology of epilepsy

Mei Sing Ong, Isaac S. Kohane, Tianxi Cai, Mark P. Gorman, Kenneth D. Mandl*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Citations (Scopus)


IMPORTANCE: Epilepsy is a debilitating condition, often with neither a known etiology nor an effective treatment. Autoimmune mechanisms have been increasingly identified.

OBJECTIVE: To conduct a population-level study investigating the relationship between epilepsy and several common autoimmune diseases.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: A retrospective population-based study using claims from a nationwide employer-provided health insurance plan in the United States. Participants were beneficiaries enrolled between 1999 and 2006 (N = 2 518 034).

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: We examined the relationship between epilepsy and 12 autoimmune diseases: type 1 diabetes mellitus, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, Graves disease, Hashimoto thyroiditis, Crohn disease, ulcerative colitis, systemic lupus erythematosus, antiphospholipid syndrome, Sjögren syndrome, myasthenia gravis, and celiac disease.

RESULTS: The risk of epilepsy was significantly heightened among patients with autoimmune diseases (odds ratio, 3.8; 95% CI, 3.6-4.0; P < .001) and was especially pronounced in children (5.2; 4.1-6.5; P < .001). Elevated risk was consistently observed across all 12 autoimmune diseases.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Epilepsy and autoimmune disease frequently co-occur; patients with either condition should undergo surveillance for the other. The potential role of autoimmunity must be given due consideration in epilepsy so that we are not overlooking a treatable cause.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-574
Number of pages6
JournalJAMA Neurology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2014


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