Epilepsy Talk

Epilepsy Stats and Facts | April 18, 2015

I call epilepsy a “stealth disease”, because it’s difficult to imagine how so few people know about a “silent” condition that affects so many.

For example, few people know:

* Epilepsy affects over 3.4 million Americans of all ages – more than Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, and Parkinson’s Disease combined.

* In America, Epilepsy is as common as Breast Cancer, and takes as many lives.

* It’s the third most common neurological disorder after Alzheimer’s and stroke.

*Almost 500 new cases of epilepsy are diagnosed every day in the United States.

* Epilepsy affects 50,000,000 people worldwide.

* One in 100 people will develop epilepsy.

* One in 10 people will suffer a seizure in their lifetime.

* This year another 200,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with epilepsy.

* Children and seniors are at higher risk.

* 30% of those diagnosed are children.

* Epilepsy can develop at any age and can be a result of genetics, stroke, head injury, and many other factors.

* There are 40+ different types of seizures.

* For many soldiers suffering traumatic brain injury on the battlefield, epilepsy will be a long-term consequence.

* In two-thirds of patients diagnosed with epilepsy, the cause is unknown.

* In over 30% of patients, seizures cannot be controlled with treatment.

* Uncontrolled seizures may lead to brain damage and death.

* Up to 50,000 Americans die each year from seizures and related causes.

* The mortality rate among people with epilepsy is two to three times higher than the general population.

* Risk of sudden death among those with epilepsy is twenty-four times greater.

* Epilepsy results in an estimated annual cost of $15.5 billion in medical costs and lost or reduced earnings and production.

* The Federal Government spends much less on epilepsy research compared to other diseases, which affect fewer people.

* Each year the National Institute of Health (NIH) spends $30 billion of medical research, but just ½ of 1% is spent on epilepsy.

* St Valentine is the patron saint of people with epilepsy!


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  1. The reason it is the “stealth disease” is because of the mental illness stigma attached to it. Could you please tell your readers that epilepsy is NOT connected to a mental illness? Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Susan Vander Veer — April 18, 2015 @ 10:45 AM

  2. I have that in several columns, most notably in Epilepsy Myths. And it’s not OUR readers who need to know.

    It’s the society at large. The more WE get out there and educate and explain, the more people will understand… in all walks of life.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 18, 2015 @ 5:54 PM

  3. Isn’t that what the Epilepsy Foundation is paid to do? I’d rather not educate and explain. Thank you.


    Comment by Susan Vander Veer — April 19, 2015 @ 4:51 PM

  4. That’s what we ALL need to do!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 20, 2015 @ 8:45 AM

    • I agree, it’s up to us all to Talk About It!


      Comment by Gina — April 20, 2015 @ 1:25 PM

  5. YES! Otherwise, it will remain the “silent lurker”!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 20, 2015 @ 1:48 PM

  6. How is it that epilepsy takes as many lives as breast cancer?


    Comment by Connie — April 24, 2015 @ 3:52 AM

  7. Just a fact. Higher mortality, not much chance of recovery.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 24, 2015 @ 8:33 AM

  8. I thought the numbers used were 1 in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy?

    The definitions used by medical professionals are also different, or changing. Before it was “two or more unprovoked seizures” to diagnose a patient with epilepsy. I thought it has now been changed to “one or more”. I may have that backwards.

    A quick mention to a lesser talked about issue with epilepsy and related deaths SUDEP (Sudden death in Epilepsy). Only the past 20 years or so has research been done focusing this. SUDEP is mainly with patients who are on poly-therapy and uncontrolled epilepsy. There was a twin study. I know one group was from Mayo Clinic here in the US; the other part was in Europe; I want to say Sweden or Denmark?


    Comment by Travis — April 29, 2015 @ 11:14 AM

  9. Yup Travis, the numbers keep on changing. It’d hard to keep it straight.

    In 1997, the International League Against Epilepsy began work on reclassifying seizures, epilepsies and epileptic syndromes. This revision remains in the works. But here’s what you have to look forward to…

    Replace partial with the older term focal to describe seizures that originate in one part of the brain (though not necessarily a small or well defined area).

    The word partial was regarded as ambiguous.

    Drop the terms simple partial and complex partial – grouping based on the effect to consciousness is no longer regarded as useful.

    So stay tuned. A whole new world of seizure names and classifications may await us.

    Updated — 40+ different types of seizures


    And then this article I wrote for the EFA:


    And there’s more!


    And if you want to be further confused, check out the footnotes. 😦


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 29, 2015 @ 12:10 PM

  10. Very informative


    Comment by Ronald Keith Powell — September 3, 2017 @ 11:53 AM

  11. Thanks Phyllis! It’s been awhile since my last post and my new post might make you or some of your readers uncomfortable but I think it’s important. There is a new program, I think it’s federal, called Mental Health First Aid and it is state and citywide run through Human Services who contract mental health nonprofits at the neighborhood level who then recruit and train community volunteers to “notice” if any members of the community are mentally ill or on drugs. I’m from one of a string of small farming communities where folks believe epilepsy is a mental illness. There is also a law either on the books in IL or almost there that states those who have committed a public disturbance are put on a nationwide list with sex offenders. I believe that after my last seizure this happened to me and because of the subject, I can find no one to help me prove or disprove my case. Also, half of the people at the Mental Health First Aid training I attended were police officers. We played the children’s game operator and after delivering a quite lengthy conversation to an officer next to me, the final participant stood and recited what he had been told by the person before him, “And her mother also had a seizure.” I assure you there was absolutely nothing of this in the conversation I passed along.


    Comment by Susan Vander Veer — September 4, 2017 @ 1:55 PM

  12. Thanks, you made me smile.


    Comment by Susan Vander Veer — September 4, 2017 @ 6:46 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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