Tsunami stress may have brought on seizures in a northern Japanese fishing community, according to a Japanese study. The tsunami devastated much of the country on March 11, 2011.
The study was published in the journal Epilepsia and looked at 400 patient records from Kesennuma City Hospital. Parts of the area were destroyed when the massive tsunami touched off by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake washed over the country.
Thirteen patients were admitted with seizures in the eight weeks following the disaster, reports Yahoo! News. In the two months before the disaster, however, only one was admitted.
The study affirms previous research that links stressful life-threatening disasters with an increased risk of seizures. Japan’s study was a rare one that offered clinical data to support the theory. Lead author Ichiyo Shibahara, a staff neurosurgeon at Sendai Medical Center in northern Japan, stated:
“We suggest that stress associated with life-threatening situations may enhance seizure generation … Most of the seizure patients had some sort of neurological disease before the earthquake.”
In this way, Reuters notes that Shibahara explained, “Stress itself is not a universal risk factor for seizures.” Five of the 13 seizure patients were admitted within a week of the massive tsunami. Eleven of the 13 patients had pre-existing brain disorders, like epilepsy, head injuries, or stroke.
All of the patients lived on their own, and eight of them took medicine to prevent convulsions. Shibahara also noted that, for the five patients admitted directly after the tsunami, it was “not because of a lack of anticonvulsants, but because of the stress.”
Not everyone agrees with the connection, however. Dr. William Theodore, senior investigator of the clinical epilepsy section at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Maryland, stated, “This is interesting, but I’m not 100 percent convinced.”