A new study shows a link between mothers with rheumatoid arthritis and children with epilepsy. The study was published online on November 16, 2016 in Neurology®, a medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The article is titled “Parental Rheumatoid Arthritis and Childhood Epilepsy.” 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, Ph.D., 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.
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