Study links mothers with rheumatoid arthritis and kids with epilepsy

November 16, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS - A new study shows a link between mothers with rheumatoid arthritis and children with epilepsy. The study is published in the November 16, 2016, online issue of Neurology®, a medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes the body's own immune system to attack the joints. It differs from osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear and tear on the joints.

Children born to mothers with rheumatoid arthritis were 26 percent more likely to develop epilepsy than children whose mothers did not have rheumatoid arthritis. Having a father with rheumatoid arthritis did not have any effect on whether the child would develop epilepsy.

"These results suggest that changes in the environment for the fetus may play a role in the development of epilepsy," said study author Ane Lilleore Rom, PhD, of Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark. "We don't know yet how this may work, but it could involve the production of maternal antibodies that could affect the unborn child."

For the study, researchers looked at records for children born in Denmark from 1977 to 2008. The nearly 2 million children were then followed for an average of 16 years. Of those, 31,491 children developed epilepsy, or 1.6 percent. A total of 13,556 children, or 0.7 percent, had mothers with rheumatoid arthritis. This also included mothers who were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis after their child was born; they were considered to have "preclinical" RA.

Compared to children whose mothers did not have RA, children whose mothers had RA at the time of their birth were up to 90 percent more likely to develop epilepsy, while children whose mothers had preclinical RA were 26 percent more likely to develop epilepsy. In absolute numbers this translates to 2 percent of children whose mothers had clinical RA and 3 percent of children whose mothers had preclinical RA at the time of birth who later developed epilepsy.

Since children of mothers with preclinical RA also had an increased risk of epilepsy, Rom said the findings point towards an important role of the disease itself rather than an effect of treatments for RA. However, the specific influence of RA treatments needs further investigation.

The results were the same after researchers adjusted for factors such as the baby's birth weight, gestational age at birth, and whether the mother also had epilepsy.

Rom noted that research has shown an increased risk of epilepsy for people who have autoimmune diseases that directly involve the brain, such as multiple sclerosis. Also, rheumatoid arthritis has been found to increase the risk of epilepsy even though rheumatoid arthritis does not directly affect the brain. "But it is new knowledge that also offspring of mothers with rheumatoid arthritis seem to have an increased risk of developing epilepsy," Rom said.
-end-
The study was supported by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Danish Council for Independent Research and Augustinus Foundation.

To learn more about epilepsy, visit http://www.aan.com/patients.

The American Academy of Neurology is the world's largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, with 30,000 members. The AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit http://www.aan.com or find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Media Contacts: Renee Tessman, rtessman@aan.com, (612) 928-6137
Michelle Uher, muher@aan.com, (612) 928-6120

American Academy of Neurology

Related Immune System Articles from Brightsurf:

How the immune system remembers viruses
For a person to acquire immunity to a disease, T cells must develop into memory cells after contact with the pathogen.

How does the immune system develop in the first days of life?
Researchers highlight the anti-inflammatory response taking place after birth and designed to shield the newborn from infection.

Memory training for the immune system
The immune system will memorize the pathogen after an infection and can therefore react promptly after reinfection with the same pathogen.

Immune system may have another job -- combatting depression
An inflammatory autoimmune response within the central nervous system similar to one linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) has also been found in the spinal fluid of healthy people, according to a new Yale-led study comparing immune system cells in the spinal fluid of MS patients and healthy subjects.

COVID-19: Immune system derails
Contrary to what has been generally assumed so far, a severe course of COVID-19 does not solely result in a strong immune reaction - rather, the immune response is caught in a continuous loop of activation and inhibition.

Immune cell steroids help tumours suppress the immune system, offering new drug targets
Tumours found to evade the immune system by telling immune cells to produce immunosuppressive steroids.

Immune system -- Knocked off balance
Instead of protecting us, the immune system can sometimes go awry, as in the case of autoimmune diseases and allergies.

Too much salt weakens the immune system
A high-salt diet is not only bad for one's blood pressure, but also for the immune system.

Parkinson's and the immune system
Mutations in the Parkin gene are a common cause of hereditary forms of Parkinson's disease.

How an immune system regulator shifts the balance of immune cells
Researchers have provided new insight on the role of cyclic AMP (cAMP) in regulating the immune response.

Read More: Immune System News and Immune System Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.