FDA Investigates If They’re Causing Seizures
Questions swirl this week as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers of a potential link between e-cigarettes and seizures.
The agency said in a press release that it has identified 35 cases between 2010 and 2019 in which e-cigarette users, especially young people, experienced convulsions or seizures after using the devices.
The FDA is concerned that not all cases of these health events have been reported and that the issue needs further investigation.
Information is sparse, and the link between vaping and seizures isn’t clear.
For example, no specific brands or e-liquids are named in the statement. Seizures have also occurred in both first-time users and experienced users alike, making it difficult to identify a pattern of use leading to these incidents.
Still, there’s scientific literature that supports nicotine-induced seizures. A 2017 research study found it was possible to induce convulsive seizures in rats using nicotine, but the relationship is less clear in humans.
Nicotine poisoning, which can occur with as little as 1 milligram in children, is known to cause sweating, diarrhea, heart arrhythmias, and seizures. However, it’s extremely difficult, if nearly impossible, to cause nicotine poisoning from traditional methods of consumption, like smoking.
But public health officials are suspicious of the potency potential in e-cigarette liquid.
“Because of irregularities in nicotine labeling on some e-cigarette/vaping devices, and due to the highly concentrated formulation of the e-liquid that is used in some of the devices, an individual may be consuming more nicotine than they realize and put themselves at risk for considerable health risks,” said Andrea Spatarella, DNP, of the Northwell Health Center for Tobacco Control in Great Neck, New York.
She also warns that e-liquids pose a danger to children if ingested directly.
Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain and can cause a person’s body to stiffen and convulse uncontrollably. However, not all seizures are convulsive. Some can occur with mild symptoms that can be hard to notice.
Nicotine, like many other drugs, can affect this electrical activity.
“Just like with anything else where you could potentially shift a lot of the neurotransmitter activity by using a substance… you can shift the balance of electrical activity in the brain toward having a seizure,” said Dr. Derek Chong, vice chair of neurology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Chong notes that the prevalence of e-cigarette-related seizures occurring among youth and young adults is disconcerting.