June 7, 2018 12:35 pm
Updated: June 7, 2018 12:38 pm

Indigenous epilepsy rate double the Canadian average

Researchers say more studies are needed to determine why there is a higher epilepsy rate among Indigenous people than non-Indigenous people.

Keith Srakocic / The Associated Press

The rate of epilepsy among Indigenous people is double that of non-Indigenous people according to a new study from the University of Saskatchewan (U of S).

Researchers said there are typically 62 new cases of epilepsy per 100,000 people each year.

That number rises to 122 per 100,000 for those who self-identify as Indigenous.

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Dr. Jose Téllez-Zenteno, who led a team the epidemiologists and neurologists that conducted the study, said reasons for the higher rate remain unclear.

“Some other studies have shown higher rates of traumatic brain injury in Indigenous populations,” Téllez-Zenteno said of his team’s study published Thursday in Seizure: European Journal of Epilepsy.

“Head trauma is correlated with epilepsy, so, we think that’s one of the factors.”

Age can also play a factor.

While epilepsy can occur at any time, the U of S study found incidents increase with age, and health problems such as strokes, dementia and tumours can also increase the likelihood of epilepsy.

Socioeconomic circumstances and education may also pose differences in epilepsy risk.

Team members said more research is needed to understand the underlying reason for the higher epilepsy rate in Indigenous people.

“Until now, there has been very little epidemiology research done about Aboriginal peoples with epilepsy,” said Dr. Lizbeth Hernández-Ronquillo, one of the co-authors of the study.

“Epilepsy is the most common neurological condition worldwide, but there are numerous gaps in knowledge.”

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Researchers used Saskatchewan health records from 2001 to 2010 to gather information on patients who were either hospitalized for epilepsy or had two physician visits with an epilepsy diagnosis.

The data was then age-adjusted to be representative of all of Canada.

The study also noted the incidence of epilepsy during the time-frame of the study declined in Canada, matching a trend of other countries with universal health-care.

“Epilepsy is a disease, like diabetes in that it can be treated – it can be cured or controlled,” Hernández-Ronquillo said.

The paper was also co-authored by U of S epidemiologist Dr. Lillian Thorpe and biostatistics Prof. Punam Pahwa.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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