Spire Leeds consultant neurologist, Dr Peter Goulding, has voiced his concern over the increasing number of epilepsy cases in the Leeds and Yorkshire area.
Dr Peter Goulding, a specialist in epilepsy says he expects the number of cases to continue to rise because of the area’s aging population, with an increasing number of people living into their eighties and beyond.
He stressed the importance for patients who suffer symptoms such as blackouts or vacant episodes to get checked out early. “Often people with epilepsy are waiting too long to see a specialist. Ideally patients with such symptoms should be seen within fourteen days as per NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommended guidelines,” said Dr Goulding. “It’s vital that everyone suffering epileptic attacks has an early MRI scan and receives investigation and the correct treatment as soon as possible.”
Dr Goulding added, “We must focus on what to do now so we can meet the needs of our aging population. It’s a problem that needs to be addressed.”
Dr Goulding says epilepsy is the biggest neurological problem in Leeds with approximately 5,000 people suffering from the condition. Every day 87 people are newly diagnosed in the UK and there are over 600,000 living with the condition nationwide. The number of people affected with epilepsy is similar to the number of insulin dependent diabetics.*
“I’m seeing about 30 new patients every month who are referred with seizures or fits. However, I think we are only scratching the surface, we are potentially seeing less than half the amount of people who currently have the condition,” he said.
Dr Goulding thinks the increasing number of people being referred for epilepsy assessment is in part due to the ageing population and more people having fits as they age. “We have a greater ageing population of people between 60 and 80 years and also more people living into their 80’s and beyond. Unfortunately they have a higher incidence of epilepsy. It can strike at any age but the highest risk categories tend to be in the under 15s and the over 60s,” he added.
He explained, “As we age many of us will develop small vessel disease caused by furred arteries or degenerative diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer’s Disease and these conditions can make us susceptible to epilepsy,” said Dr Goulding, who has been involved in clinical trials and research for epilepsy since 1994.
He said patients with epilepsy can experience a seizure at any time and there are many types of epilepsy across the age range. Some are due to a genetic cause and some have a structural abnormality cause such as brain tumour. Treatment tends to be predominantly with drugs, in severe cases nerve stimulators or surgical procedures can provide effective results.
Dr Goulding stressed the danger of epilepsy if left undiagnosed. “Injuries commonly occur in the setting of a seizure and there is a small risk of epilepsy related death. In fact, SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy) occurs in around one in 10,000 seizures and one in 80 patients with severe epilepsy die from SUDEP each year. So if left untreated there’s the risk of epilepsy patients dying before they can be diagnosed and treated. We may be able to prevent some of these premature deaths with early intervention.”