About Epilepsy

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological condition which affects the nervous system. Epilepsy is also known as a seizure disorder. It is usually diagnosed after a person has had at least two seizures (or after one seizure with a high risk for more) that were not caused by some known medical condition.

Epilepsy is not a disease, mental illness or a sign of low intelligence. It is not contagious. Epilepsy is generally a chronic and/or lifelong condition.

What Are Seizures?

Seizures seen in epilepsy are caused by disturbances in the electrical activity of the brain. The seizures in epilepsy may be related to a brain injury or a family tendency, but most of the time the cause is unknown.

When Epilepsy Develops

A person could have a seizure at any time during his or her life. In fact, it is estimated that 1 in 10 people will have a seizure during his or her life time. 1 IN 26 people in the United States will develop epilepsy at some point in their lifetime. About one-third of the 150,000 cases diagnosed each year occur in childhood. However, senior citizens are increasingly diagnosed with epilepsy/seizure disorders.

Treatments for Epilepsy

The most common treatment for epilepsy/seizure disorders is anti-epileptic medications. Many people with epilepsy are able to control their seizures with medications. However, the side effects of medications can be severe, and some people with epilepsy do not respond well to medications and have little or no control of seizures. In some individuals, surgery can also be used to treat epilepsy/seizures disorders.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Epilepsy affects 65 million people worldwide. At least 3.4 million people in the US live with seizures, including 470,000 children.

While medications and other epilepsy treatments help many people of all ages who live with epilepsy, more than a million people continue to have seizures that can severely limit their school achievements, employment prospects and participation in all of life’s experiences. It strikes most often among the very young and the very old, although anyone can develop epilepsy at any age.

The number of epilepsy cases in the elderly is climbing as the baby boom generation reaches retirement age. More than 570,000 adults age 65 and above have the condition. Our returning veterans are also affected as studies show an increased risk of developing epilepsy following traumatic brain injury.

Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder in the U.S. after migraine, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. Its prevalence is greater than autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease combined. Despite how common it is and major advances in diagnosis and treatment, epilepsy is among the least understood of major chronic medical conditions, even though one in three adults knows someone with the disorder.

1 in 26 people in the U.S. will develop epilepsy at some point in their lives