A recent study in Sweden has highlighted epilepsy as a leading cause of premature death among people with autism, thus underlining an urgent need for better treatment strategies.The research, led by the Karolinska Institute and published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, has prompted the autism research charity ‘Autistica‘ to published a report calling for increased attention to be paid to the interaction between the two conditions.The study analysed data from 27,122 people with autism spectrum disorders, who were diagnosed between 1987 and 2009, and compared the findings with data from 2.67 million people in the ‘general population’.The results showed that people with autism generally die 18 years younger than those without autism, and that people who have an intellectual disability in addition to autism generally die 30 years earlier than the population average.Although it is recognised that people with autism are at an increased risk of dying early from numerous causes, here epilepsy was identified as the main mortality risk. Indeed adults with autism and learning difficulties were shown to be 40 times more likely than the rest of the population to die prematurely as a result of a neurological condition – epilepsy in particular.The Karolinska Institute figures are taken from a large epidemiological research study and act as a confirmation of previous findings from smaller studies of autism mortality risks. However, despite this emerging consensus, there has been little research done to identify optimal epilepsy treatment strategies specifically for people with autism.Jon Spiers, Autistica’s chief executive, said: “Everyone involved in supporting people on the autism spectrum, from the government right down to local care providers, has a responsibility to step up and start saving lives as soon as possible.”Click here for more articles about conditions related to epilepsy.Would you like to take part in research into epilepsy and autism?The Irish Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Research (ICAN) is investigating the challenges faced by children and adolescents who have both epilepsy and autism. If you have a child between the age of 2 and 18 years, who has a diagnosis of autism, please complete their questionnaire (please note: your child does not have to have epilepsy for your responses to be valuable).