The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a special announcement that there could be a link between e-cigarettes and seizures.
The agency has received the so-called “a recent uptick” in reports where e-cigarette users describe that they are having seizures since June 2018.
The drug regulatory body gathers information on vape safety risks via their Safety Reporting Portal, where e-cigarette users can share their experiences.
From 2010 to early 2019, the FDA counted 35 reports of seizures, which may have been related to e-cigarettes. The agency also found that most of them were young adults.
It is a known fact that nicotine poisoning can cause seizures, especially when people swallow vape juice. However, the FDA does not know yet what the relationship between seizures and vaping is here, said soon-to-be-ex FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb.
Peter Chai, a medical toxicologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said in an email to The Verge, “I think exposure (skin contact or oral) in children, or vaping exposure in younger individuals (adolescents through which we’ve seen a large increase in e-cig use), might be accounting or the increase in these seizures.”
Medical toxicologist Edward W. Boyer, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said, “To get enough nicotine in your body to cause seizures by smoking cigarettes is well-nigh impossible.” However, similar cases of nicotine-associated seizures have been linked to consuming it.
Boyer explained that it is possible that e-cigarettes could deliver enough nicotine to increase the risk of seizures. But, there is not enough evidence.
As of now, Gottlieb said, “We can’t yet say for certain that e-cigarettes are causing these seizures.”
The FDA said that there are different types of seizures, which “result from sudden, abnormal electrical activity in the brain.” And this could lead to convulsions, but also can make people stare and freeze.
Public health experts would like to figure out why and how to prevent seizures if it is actually related to vaping.
The FDA states there were some people who reported a seizure after using e-cigarettes for the first time, while some people experienced a seizure after using them for a while. The agency also stated that some people had been diagnosed with seizures before, while some suggested that they had been using other substances as well, such as amphetamines or cannabis.
The drug regulatory body suspects that the count of 35 is an underestimate because people submit these reports voluntarily.
However, Chai expects that the FDA will get more reports now that this potential link has been out there. The FDA advises e-cigarette users to inform their physicians if they notice any symptoms of seizures, which may range from shaking to confusion. Gottlieb said in a statement today, “While 35 cases may not seem like much compared to the total number of people using e-cigarettes, we are nonetheless concerned by these reported cases.”