Purpose: To ascertain the occurrence of concurrent illnesses in adults with epilepsy since childhood.
Method: After a mean follow-up of 35 years of a prospective, population-based long-term followed patient cohort with epilepsy since childhood, comorbidity was examined in 176 surviving (100 of them with epilepsy only) and 44 dead patients and in random and employee controls.
Results: Somatic comorbidity varied from 84 to 95% in patients and from 67 to 74% in controls. No significantly increased risk of somatic diseases could be shown. Psychosomatic disorders were associated in 46-74% of patients and in 42-75% of controls, and psychiatric disorders were associated in 11-23% of patients and in 7% of controls. As compared with random controls, patients with epilepsy had only a 4.0- to 4.2-fold risk of psychiatric disorders or of combinations of somatic, psychosomatic, and/or psychiatric disorders. Patients received psychotropic drugs 8.6 times more frequently than employee controls. The risk for psychiatric and psychosomatic disorders was higher than expected in patients with childhood-onset epilepsy, regardless of whether or not they were still receiving antiepileptic drugs (AEDs).
Conclusion: Epilepsy per se, but not AEDs, has an apparent association with the occurrence of psychiatric and psychosomatic disorders. Risk for somatic comorbidity is not increased.