Epilepsy is a neurological condition where seizures occur that interrupt brain activity. While the cause of epilepsy is not known, research has suggested that it could be the result of a family inheritance or because of some previous accident or brain trauma. It can cause a variety of symptoms such as sensory disorder, convulsions and even loss of consciousness.
Anyone can have an epileptic seizure at some point in their life and for a variety of reasons. It’s when these seizures occur more than once that a problem is generally identified. Epilepsy can occur for a certain period and then disappear but for a large number of sufferers it is a lifelong condition that needs to be managed carefully. Treatment normally involves taking anti-epileptic drugs which calm down the seizures but if these do not work then surgery may be an option.
Finding out that you have epilepsy can have profound effects on your life and confidence. It can mean that you won’t be able to drive any longer and could affect whether you able to continue to do your job, particularly if you are involved in an area where health and safety are paramount. For families and friends, it can be a difficult condition to deal with, especially if they do not know how to handle a seizure when it occurs.
- According to research, there are around 65 million people in the world who suffer from epilepsy.
- A third of people will have uncontrollable symptoms that are highly resistant to any treatment.
- 60% of people with epilepsy will have no identifiable cause.
- You are more likely to be diagnosed with epilepsy as a child or in old age.
- In younger patients, developing a brain infection such as meningitis can increase the risk of becoming epileptic.
- For older patients, dementia can lead to an increased risk of epilepsy.
- Epilepsy can cause emotional difficulties such as depression and anxiety that can exacerbate the condition.
In the USA:
- 1 in 26 people will develop some form of epilepsy at some time in their lives and it’s thought there are about 3 million who suffer from it.
- 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with epilepsy each year.
- Epilepsy costs the US in the region of $15.5 billion a year.
- Epilepsy is split evenly across the genders but there may be some ethnic differences, though the amount of research needs to increase in this area.
In Europe and the UK:
- Up to 30% of the population who suffer from epilepsy have more than one seizure per month.
- There are about 900,000 children and adolescents who have been diagnosed with epilepsy, 1.9 million 20 to 64 year olds and 600,000 people over the age of 65.
- In the UK one in every 103 has epilepsy which equates to about 600,000 people. About 87 new cases are diagnosed each day.
- With the right treatment, it is estimated that 70% of epileptics could be seizure free.
Across the rest of the world, epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders:
- In many areas around the world, someone who suffers from epilepsy will be subjected to discrimination and in low income countries three quarters of people will not receive the treatment they need.
- In China, over 10 million people live with the condition and there is a lot of stigma attached but this has been helped in recent times by the launch of projects to help young people with epilepsy.
- In Africa, 80% of the 10 million people with epilepsy are not treated using the modern drugs available.
The Epilepsy Society: Living with Epilepsy
Epilepsy by the Numbers: Facts, Statistics, and You
World Health Organisation: Facts and Figures