Veterans Poorly Diagnosed For Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Seizures

Veterans who suffer from psychogenic non-epileptic seizures are diagnosed 5 years later than civilians with the same condition.

According to a recent study, veterans who suffer from psychogenic non-epileptic seizures—seizures that are not caused by epilepsy but are emotion-based—may not be diagnosed for a long time in comparison to civilians with the same condition.

Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures are believed to have a psychological origin, but diagnosing them can be difficult because emotion-based seizures and epileptic induced seizures appear very similar, reported Martin Salinsky of the Portland VA Medical Center and Oregon Health and Sciences University.

Salinsky and his fellow researchers reviewed the medical records of 100 individuals (50 veterans and 50 civilians) who were diagnosed with psychogenic non-epileptic seizures.

They found that civilians were generally diagnosed with the disorder within one year after their symptoms began, but it took veterans an average of five years after symptoms began to be diagnosed.

Further, the seizures of 60% of the veterans were found to be attributed to traumatic brain injury, a known risk factor for developing epilepsy.

It was not made clear why accurate diagnosis took so long for veterans, though Salinsky reported that it may be partially due to the limited number of epilepsy monitoring units in VA medical centers.

Salinsky continued to state that many of the veterans in the study received epilepsy drugs before they were actually diagnosed with psychogenic non-epileptic seizure, which would not have helped the patients as the two disorders are different; further, the drugs could have severe causes and unnecessary side-effects.

The study is published in the September 6 issue of Neurology.