Autism and epilepsy

Frank M.C. Besag

Cite this article as: CEPiP 2014;1:74-80

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The link between epilepsy and autism has been established in several epidemiological studies. Although results vary, meta-analyses have suggested that the rate of epilepsy in autism is between 20 and 30%. It is considerably less in populations of children with autism who do not have intellectual disability, in whom around 6-8% are reported to have epilepsy. The reason for the coexistence of epilepsy and autism remains unclear. It seems that the epilepsy itself is probably the cause of the autism in only a very small minority of cases. In most cases an underlying predisposition is probably responsible for both conditions. A number of genetically-determined conditions have been implicated in this regard, of which tuberous sclerosis is one of the most interesting examples. With a few exceptions, the management of individuals who have both autism and epilepsy is similar to those who have either of these conditions on its own.