By the Numbers
***Epilepsy is the third most common neurological disorder in the United States after Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.It is equal in prevalence to cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease combined.
Epilepsy is not a single entity but a family of more than 40 syndromes that affect nearly 3 million people in the U. S.and 50,000,000 worldwide.
Epilepsy strikes most often among the very young and the very old, although anyone can get it at any age. In the U.S., it currently affects more than 326,000 children under age fifteen and more than 90,000 of them have severe seizures that cannot be adequately treated.
The number of cases in the elderly is beginning to soar as the baby boom generation approaches retirement age. Currently more than 570,000 adults aged 65 and above in the U.S. have the condition.
Epilepsy imposes an annual economic burden of $15.5 billion on the nation in associated health care costs and losses in employment, wages, and productivity.
The mortality rate among people with epilepsy is two to three times higher than the general population and the risk of sudden death is 24 times greater.
This year another 200,000 people in the U.S.will be diagnosed with epilepsy and an estimated 25,000 to 50,000 will die of seizures and related causes,including status epilepticus (non-stop seizures), sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP), drowning and other accidents.
Epilepsy and its treatment produce a health related quality of life – measured in days of activity limitation, pain, depression, anxiety, reduced vitality, and insufficient sleep or rest – similar to arthritis, heart problems, diabetes, and cancer.
Thirty to forty percent of people with epilepsy are severely affected and continue to have seizures despite treatment.
Of major chronic medical conditions, epilepsy is among the least understood even though one in three adults knows someone with the disorder.
Lack of knowledge about proper seizure first aid exposes affected individuals to injury from unnecessary restraint and from objects needlessly forced into the mouth.
The leading non-medical problem confronting people with epilepsy is discrimination in education, employment and social acceptance.
Epilepsy is prevalent among other disability groups such as autism (25.5%), cerebral palsy (13%), Down syndrome (13.6%), and mental retardation (25.5%). For people with both cerebral palsy and mental retardation the prevalence is (40%).
The association between epilepsy and depression is especially strong. More than one of every three persons with epilepsy are also affected by the mood disorder, and people with a history of depression have a 3 to 7 times higher risk of developing epilepsy.
It is 14 years on average between the onset of epilepsy and surgical intervention for seizures uncontrollable by medication. American physicians may be unaware of the safety and efficacy of epilepsy surgery, making it among the most underutilized of proven effective therapeutic interventions in the field of medicine.