According to a recent study, people who have a learning disability are more likely to develop epilepsy than the ‘general population’.
The research, carried out at St George’s, University of London, analysed the electronic GP records of 14,751 adults with a learning disability and compared them to those of 86,221 people of similar age and sex in the general population.
The findings, which are published in the British Journal of General Practice, suggested that those with mental development problems caused by conditions such as Down’s syndrome and autism are significantly more likely to suffer from chronic conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes, under-active thyroid and kidney disease, and also from serious mental health issues such as schizophrenia and mood disorders.
Coronary heart disease and cancer rates, however, were found to be nearly one-third lower in the learning disability group than in the ‘general population’ group, although the researchers warn that this could simply be because people with a learning disability find it harder to articulate their conditions, making them more difficult to accurately diagnose.
It is also noted in the report that people with a learning disability are less likely to have extended consultations with doctors, and that they generally experience decreased continuity of care, suggesting a need for higher-quality chronic disease management in primary care.
Dr Iain Carey, of St George’s, University of London, said: “The high prevalence of epilepsy and severe mental health problems in people with a learning disability requires effective access to specialist advice.
“Continuity of care and longer appointment times are important potential improvements in primary care.”
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