What is Epilepsy?

What_is_EpilepsyEpilepsy sometimes called a seizure disorder, is a chronic unpredictable neurological condition characterized by intermittent electrical and chemical disturbances in the brain that cause seizures which affect awareness, movement, or sensation. Epilepsy can strike at any stage of life. Any One at Any Time at Any Age can have a seizure. Epilepsy is not contagious. Epilepsy is not mental illness. Epilepsy is not mental retardation. Lack of knowledge about proper seizure first aid exposes affected individuals to injury from unnecessary restraint and from objects needlessly forced into their mouths. Of major chronic medical conditions, epilepsy is among the least understood, even though one in three adults knows someone with the disorder. Epilepsy is not a single entity, but a family of more than 40 syndromes that affects more than 3 million people in the U.S.and 50 million worldwide.

Who has Epilepsy?


Epilepsy does not discriminate. It can affect children, adults, seniors, men and woman, people of all races, religions, ethnic backgrounds, and social classes at any time. 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. More than 3 million people in the U.S. More than 400,000 Texans have Epilepsy. 1 in 10 people will experience a seizure at some point in their lives. This year 200,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with epilepsy 30 to 40% of people with epilepsy are severely affected and continue to have seizures despite treatment.



Epilepsy is prevalent among those with other disabilities, such as autism (25.5 percent), cerebral palsy (13 percent), Down’s syndrome (13.6 percent), and mental retardation (25.5 percent)—while 40 percent of people who have both cerebral palsy and mental retardation also have epilepsy. 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 are 3 to 7 times more likely to develop epilepsy than the average person.

Did You Know?

did_you_knowIn 70% of cases the cause of epilepsy is unknown. Surveys of people with epilepsy show that their greatest concerns are societal expectations (stigma, discrimination, negative attitudes) coupled with issues of transportation, unemployment, health, and safety concerns. Many people still believe that you should place something in the mouth of someone having a seizure. Epilepsy strikes most often among the very young and the very old, although anyone can get it at any age. In the U.S. more than 326,000 children under 15 yrs are affected. 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 age 65 and above in the U.S. have the condition.


istockphoto_4647415-money-pile-100-dollar-billsEpilepsy imposes       an annual economic burden of $15.5 billion on the nation in associated health care costs and losses in employment, wages and productivity. 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.


Epilepsy and Death

DeathThe mortality rate among people with epilepsy is two to three times higher—and the risk of sudden death is 24 times greater—than that of the general population. This year 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.



StigmaThe leading non-medical problem confronting people with epilepsy is discrimination in education, employment and social acceptance. Some people with epilepsy do not even know they have it because they’ve been told they have a seizure disorder instead. This unfortunate euphemism arose because of the stigma associated with epilepsy, a stigma that the Epilepsy Foundation and others have fought to dispel.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis_and_treatmentOn average, it is 14 years 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. Lack of knowledge about proper seizure first aid exposes affected individuals to injury from unnecessary restraint and from objects needlessly forced into their mouths.