Epilepsy may slightly increase risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, study suggests


According to a new study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), there is a slight increased risk of hospital admission and death from COVID-19 in people with epilepsy.

The study analysed hospital admissions of 6.08 million adults in England between 24 January and 30 April to find risk factors of increased hospital admission and death.

Out of those who died in their cohort:

  • 4% were male
  • 7% came from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic(BAME) backgrounds
  • 5% were ages 70 and over
  • 3% had type two diabetes.

Other risk factors of increased hospital admission and death were conditions included on the shielding list. Down’s syndrome, severe immunodeficiency, and some chemotherapy treatments were amongst some of the highest risk factors detected.

What is not clear from this study is if it is epilepsy itself which increases the risk of hospital admission and death.

For example, people with epilepsy are more likely than the general population to attend higher risk settings like hospitals or social care, which increases their risk of catching the virus.

Additionally, some people with epilepsy have associated conditions which can increase their risk of developing more severe COVID-19 symptoms.


The need to be vigilant

However, although we are not clear if it is epilepsy itself which increases hospital admission and death, this is evidence for people with epilepsy to be extra vigilant.

As there is an identified slight increased risk of more severe COVID-19 symptoms, people with epilepsy must strictly follow the public health guidance to avoid catching the virus.

We are therefore urging people with epilepsy to wear a mask wherever necessary, regularly wash their hands, and socially distance from other people.

For the latest advice on COVID-19 in Scotland please click here.