Number of Americans with epilepsy at record level

August 10, 2017 by Steven Reinberg, Healthday Reporter

(HealthDay)—More Americans than ever are living with epilepsy, federal health officials reported Thursday.

According to the new report, 1.2 percent of the population—about 3 million adults and 470,000 children—were being treated for or had experienced recent seizures in 2015, the researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The number of adults with active epilepsy rose from 2.3 million in 2010. Epilepsy among children rose by 20,000 between 2007 and 2015, according to the report's coauthor, Rosemarie Kobau, the head of the CDC's epilepsy program.

"The increase is probably because of ," Kobau said. "We don't know if other factors are involved."

The report, published Aug. 11 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, offers epilepsy estimates for every state for the first time, which shows the condition is widespread.

The number of adults with epilepsy ranged from 5,100 in Wyoming to nearly 368,000 in California, the researchers found.

The number of children with the condition ranged from 800 in Wyoming to nearly 60,000 in California.

Eleven states had more than 92,700 people with epilepsy, according to the report.

Philip Gattone is president and CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation. In a news release from the foundation, he said, "This report confirms what many in our community have suspected: Epilepsy has been underreported. We are very grateful that we have a public health program at the CDC for epilepsy. Their new data strengthens our resolve."

One specialist thinks that population growth is only one factor in the growing prevalence of epilepsy.

"People are living longer, and the population has increased, so you are going to have more seizures," said Dr. Paul Wright. He is the chair of neurology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. and Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

"Also, we have better diagnosis," he said. "More people are coming to doctors when they don't have an explanation for things like confusion and speech issues, so we are doing testing and we are discovering epilepsy," Wright said.

Kobau explained that epilepsy is a disorder of the brain that causes seizures. "More than half the cases of epilepsy don't have a known cause—the rest have causes like stroke, brain tumor, head injury, central nervous system infections, genetic risks or brain diseases, such as dementia," she said.

Most epilepsy can be controlled with medications, surgery or devices that stimulate the brain, Kobau added.

For the report, Kobau and her colleague, Dr. Matthew Zack, from CDC's division of population health, used data from the 2015 National Health Interview Survey for adults, the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children's Health and the 2015 Current Population Survey (2014 data).

Kobau pointed out that living with epilepsy can be challenging. It can result in work limitations, difficulty finding transportation and difficulty affording medical care.

Children with epilepsy are more likely to fall behind in school and to need special education services, she added.

People with epilepsy should work with their doctor to be sure they are getting the best care, she said. "Uncontrolled seizures can lead to an early death," Kobau said.

Unfortunately, epilepsy is often stigmatized, she added. A recent survey found that 12 percent of Americans would not want to work with or be near someone with epilepsy.

Kobau said she thinks that this reluctance is because not many people are trained to recognize an epileptic or how to help someone having one.

According to the CDC, caring for someone having a seizure involves keeping the person safe until the seizure stops and knowing when to call 911 for help.

Explore further: Epilepsy often hand-in-hand with other health problems: CDC

More information: Rosemarie Kobau, M.P.H, head, epilepsy program, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Paul Wright, M.D., chair, neurology, North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, N.Y. and Long Island Jewish Medical Center, New Hyde Park, N.Y.; Epilepsy Foundation, news release, Aug. 10, 2017; Aug. 11, 2017, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

For more about epilepsy and seizures, visit the Epilepsy Foundation.

Related Stories

Epilepsy often hand-in-hand with other health problems: CDC

October 31, 2013
(HealthDay)—Many people with epilepsy also suffer from other serious medical problems, such as heart disease and cancer, at rates higher than the general population, U.S. health officials said Thursday.

Seizure control eases life for young adults with epilepsy

April 29, 2017
(HealthDay)—Young adults with uncomplicated epilepsy who remain seizure-free do as well as siblings without the disorder in education, employment, driving and independent living, a new study says.

Epilepsy: Another potential Zika threat to babies

April 17, 2017
(HealthDay)—Beyond its known links to birth defects and other problems, the Zika virus may also trigger cases of epilepsy in infants, warn experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cannabis use in people with epilepsy revealed: Australian survey

March 9, 2017
People with epilepsy resort to cannabis products when antiepileptic drug side-effects are intolerable and epilepsy uncontrolled.

Treatments available for drug-resistant epilepsy

August 22, 2016
One in 26 people will develop epilepsy – a chronic disease characterized by unpredictable seizures—in their lifetime.

Suicide rate is 22 percent higher among people with epilepsy than the general population

July 12, 2016
The suicide rate among people with epilepsy is 22 percent higher than the general population, according to a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published in Epilepsy & Behavior.

Recommended for you

Do you see what I see? Researchers harness brain waves to reconstruct images of what we perceive

February 22, 2018
A new technique developed by neuroscientists at the University of Toronto Scarborough can, for the first time, reconstruct images of what people perceive based on their brain activity gathered by EEG.

Neuroscientists discover a brain signal that indicates whether speech has been understood

February 22, 2018
Neuroscientists from Trinity College Dublin and the University of Rochester have identified a specific brain signal associated with the conversion of speech into understanding. The signal is present when the listener has ...

Study in mice suggests personalized stem cell treatment may offer relief for multiple sclerosis

February 22, 2018
Scientists have shown in mice that skin cells re-programmed into brain stem cells, transplanted into the central nervous system, help reduce inflammation and may be able to help repair damage caused by multiple sclerosis ...

Biomarker, clues to possible therapy found in novel childhood neurogenetic disease

February 22, 2018
Researchers studying a rare genetic disorder that causes severe, progressive neurological problems in childhood have discovered insights into biological mechanisms that drive the disease, along with early clues that an amino ...

A look at the space between mouse brain cells

February 22, 2018
Between the brain's neurons and glial cells is a critical but understudied structure that's been called neuroscience's final frontier: the extracellular space. With a new imaging paradigm, scientists can now see into and ...

Nolan film 'Memento' reveals how the brain remembers and interprets events from clues

February 22, 2018
Key repeating moments in the film give viewers the information they need to understand the storyline. The scenes cause identical reactions in the viewer's brain. The results deepen our understanding of how the brain functions, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.