Based on an article titled “Epilepsy and hypertension: The possible link for sudden unexpected death in epilepsy?”
Originally written by Szczurkowska et al., 2021
By Murielle Nsiela
Seizures are described as sudden and uncontrollable electrical disturbances in the brain. They lead to temporary changes in behaviour, feelings, movements, and ultimately the person experiencing this can become unconscious.1 However, an individual who is said to experience two or more episodes of seizures are diagnosed with epilepsy.
Types of Seizures
Seizures are mainly split into two groups: generalised seizures and second focal seizures.
Generalised seizures occur on both sides of the brain. They can either be absence seizures whereby the individual experiences rapid blinking; or tonic-clonic seizures where the individual experiences muscle spasms and can become unconscious.
On the other hand, focal seizures occur on one side of the brain. They can either be simple focal seizures observed by twitching or complex focal seizures, which cause confusion.
The final type of focal seizure is a secondary generalised seizure. This type of seizure causes the individual to experience a focal seizure first, which then spreads to the whole brain and becomes a generalised seizure.2
Could seizures be caused by cardiovascular problems?
It has been suggested that some cardiovascular diseases can lead to seizures. This includes arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, a condition where the heart cannot pump blood normally, and congenital cardiac anomalies when there are abnormalities in the heart before birth. All these conditions can lead to poor blood circulation in the brain, leading to seizures.3
Although hypertension is not a heart disease, it can lead to hypertensive heart disease. A review by Szczurkowska et al. suggested a possible link between hypertension, cardiovascular disease and epilepsy and how these factors can cause sudden unexpected death in individuals with epilepsy.4
Furthermore, a study by Wilner et al. found that the most common comorbidity in patients with epilepsy was hypertension, which suggests that hypertension does play a crucial role in epilepsy.5
Therefore, chronic hypertension can contribute to a late onset of seizures.6 In addition, the relationship between hypertension and epilepsy has been said to be bidirectional. Seizure onset has been suggested to cause an increase in blood pressure, leading to hypertension.7
In conclusion, there is ultimately an association between hypertension, other cardiovascular diseases and seizures. However, further studies are required to find effective preventative strategies and treatment options.
- Types of Seizures [Internet]. Hopkinsmedicine.org. 2022 [cited 25 January 2022]. Available from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/epilepsy/types-of-seizures
- Types of Seizures | Epilepsy | CDC [Internet]. Cdc.gov. 2022 [cited 25 January 2022]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/epilepsy/about/types-of-seizures.htm
- Cardiac Disorders [Internet]. Epilepsy Foundation. 2022 [cited 25 January 2022]. Available from: https://www.epilepsy.com/living-epilepsy/epilepsy-and/professional-health-care-providers/co-existing-disorders/cardiac-disorders
- Szczurkowska P, Polonis K, Becari C, Hoffmann M, Narkiewicz K, Chrostowska M. Epilepsy and hypertension: The possible link for sudden unexpected death in epilepsy?. Cardiology Journal. 2021;28(2):330-335.
- Wilner AN, Sharma BK, Soucy A, et al. Common comorbidities in women and men with epilepsy and the relationship between number of comorbidities and health plan paid costs in 2010. Epilepsy Behav. 2014;32:15–20.
- Tchekalarova J, Loyens E, Smolders I. Effects of AT1 receptor antagonism on kainate-induced seizures and concomitant changes in hippocampal extracellular noradrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine levels in Wistar-Kyoto and spontaneously hypertensive rats. Epilepsy Behav. 2015;46:66–71.
- Stöllberger C, Finsterer J. Cardiorespiratory findings in sudden unexplained/unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) Epilepsy Res. 2004;59(1):51–60.