PURPOSE: Individuals with type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1D) are at higher risk of epilepsy. T1D is a progressive immune-mediated disease and the etiology of epilepsy remains unknown in most. Glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) catalyzes GABA formation. GABA-secreting neurons and pancreatic beta cells are the major cells expressing GAD.
METHODS: Cross-sectional study. Patients with T1D from a multiethnic population underwent GADA measurement to investigate possible association between T1D and epilepsy of unknown etiology.
RESULTS: T1D patients were analyzed (n = 375). Overall frequency of epilepsy was 5.9% (n = 22). Frequency of epilepsy of unknown etiology was 3.2% (n = 12). Of these, 8 (2.1%) had idiopathic generalized epilepsy (IGE) and 4 (1.1%) MRI-negative temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). Patients with T1D and epilepsy of unknown etiology did not show differences in GADA frequency (83.3% vs 50%; p = 0.076); however, their titers were higher (106.9 ± 136.5 IU/mL; median 7; IQR 1.65-256 vs 10.2 ± 14.5 IU/ml; median 4.3; IQR 1.9-8.9; p = 0.019) compared to patients without epilepsy. Moreover, epilepsy of unknown etiology was associated with GADA titers greater than or equal to 100 UI/mL [odds ratio (OR) 4.42, 95% CI 2.36-8.66].
CONCLUSION: Epilepsy frequency was elevated in patients with type 1 diabetes (TD1) mellitus and multiethnic background. Presence of epilepsy of unknown etiology was associated with high titers of glutamic acid decarboxylase antibody (GADA) in this population with long-standing T1D, which has different ethnic and genetic background compared to previous studies. Further prospective studies are required to identify if GADA presence or its persistence are directly responsible for epilepsy in individuals with T1D.