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What Is Autoimmune Epilepsy?

What Is Autoimmune Epilepsy?

About 30% of people with epilepsy have refractory epilepsy, meaning that their seizures are not completely controlled by medications or by other treatments.

A research study has found that some people who have refractory epilepsy may have autoimmune epilepsy. What this means is that their epilepsy is caused by an overactive immune system that causes antibodies to attack proteins in their brain.

People with autoimmune epilepsy share similar characteristics, such as:

  • High seizure frequency
  • Short seizure duration
  • Seizures occurring while sleeping
  • A variability of seizure type with multifocality
  • Rare postictal confusion
  • Seizures occurring in the temporal lobe
  • Changes in memory, behaviour and cognition
  • Epilepsy and seizures that are refractory to medications or other treatments

When a person with epilepsy has the above characteristics, autoimmune epilepsy should be considered as a possible diagnosis and testing should be done to determine whether or not the person has autoimmune epilepsy as they may be able to be treated with immunotherapy. In fact, it has been found that immunotherapy may be able to reduce the overactivity of the immune system, better control seizures and make a huge difference in the lives of people with refractory autoimmune epilepsy.

If you have refractory epilepsy with similar characteristics to what was listed in this blog post, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider about getting testing done to see if you have autoimmune epilepsy and if you may be able to be treated with immunotherapy. For more information on autoimmune epilepsy, check out the research study here.

The BC Epilepsy Society would like to thank Renee Marlatt for bringing this research study to our attention, which prompted us to write this blog post and share this information to our constituents.

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