Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton’s recent health episode has raised a number of questions and is causing quite a stir in the media. A few weeks ago rumors surfaced in small, conservative right-wing blogs that she may be suffering from epilepsy, and those rumors have now spread remarkably quickly through the pipeline to larger outlets like Breitbart and Fox News.
During a June photo op in Washington, D.C., Clinton turned back reporters' questions with what Associated Press correspondent Lisa Lerer described as "an exaggerated motion, shaking her head vigorously for a few seconds" in a first person account entitled “Video proves Clinton suffering seizures? Not so, I was there”.
Political pressure to make more medical disclosures began after Mrs. Clinton felt dizzy on Sunday and departed early from the 9/11 anniversary ceremony in New York.
A spokesman initially said only that Mrs. Clinton had felt overheated. But after video shot by an onlooker showed a wobbly Hillary being helped into a van by Secret Service agents, her campaign released a statement from her personal physician Dr. Lisa Bardack saying that Mrs. Clinton had pneumonia.
What is missing in these discussions is the possible relationship between epilepsy and pneumonia. Epileptic seizures predispose the affected person to a form of pneumonia called aspiration pneumonia.
Aspiration pneumonia results from inhalation of stomach contents or secretions of the oropharynx leading to lower respiratory tract infection. In many healthy adults, very small quantities of aspiration occur frequently, but the normal defense mechanisms (cough, lung cilia) remove the material with no ill effects.
However, during seizures caused by epilepsy the latter protective body mechanism is impaired — which explains why an epileptic fit may predispose a person to develop pneumonia.
The problem can be further complicated by the fact that epilepsy in an older age group may be indicative of a more serious medical condition.
It is fair to say that there is no clear evidence that the pneumonia of Hillary Clinton has been a complication of an underlying epileptic fit. But it would be unreasonable and irresponsible to deny the possibility, dismiss as outright as conspiracy theory, and exclude it from consideration — especially when it affects a potential future U.S. president.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid obtained his medical degree in internal medicine from Cairo University.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad: How Radical Islam Works, Why It Should Terrify Us, How to Defeat It." Read more reports from Tawfik Hamid - Click Here Now.
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