TUESDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Veterans who suffer emotion-related seizures that are not caused by epilepsy can go undiagnosed for much longer than civilians with the condition, according to a new study.

This condition -- known as psychogenic non-epileptic seizure -- is believed to have a psychological origin and is different from epilepsy, but diagnosis can be difficult because the two types of seizures are similar in appearance, explained Dr. Martin Salinsky, of the Portland VA Medical Center and Oregon Health and Sciences University.

He and his colleagues reviewed the medical records of 50 veterans and 50 civilians who were diagnosed with psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. It took an average of five years from the start of symptoms for veterans to be diagnosed, compared with about one year for civilians.

In nearly 60 percent of the veterans, the seizures had been attributed to traumatic brain injury, which can lead to epilepsy.

The study is published in the Sept. 6 issue of Neurology.

Why accurate diagnosis is delayed among veterans is unclear, but one reason may be the limited number of epilepsy monitoring units in VA medical centers, Salinsky suggested.

He said a delay in diagnosis can prolong a patient's disability and also noted that many of the veterans received epilepsy drugs before they were finally diagnosed with psychogenic non-epileptic seizure.

Epilepsy drugs won't help and may cause serious, unwanted side effects, Salinsky added in a journal news release.

More information

HealthLink BC has more about non-epileptic seizures.