Frequently Asked Questions:
WHAT IS EPILEPSY?
• short periods of blackout or confused memory
• occasional "fainting spells" in which bladder or bowel control is lost, followed by extreme fatigue
• episodes of blank staring in children
• brief periods of no response to questions or instructions
• sudden falls in a child for no apparent reason
• episodes of blinking or chewing at inappropriate times
• a convulsion with or without a fever.
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 2.2 million people in the U.S. and 50 million worldwide.
Epilepsy is the forth most common neurological disorder in the United States after Alzheimer’s disease, migraine and stroke. It is equal in prevalence to cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease combined. This year another 150,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with epilepsy. Ten percent of new patients fail to gain control of seizures despite optimal medical management.
Epilepsy imposes an annual economic burden of $17.6 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.
Age of Onset
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 the age of fifteen, more than 90,000 of whom 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 age 65 and above in the U.S. have the condition.
Diagnosis and Treatment
On 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.
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 (25.8 percent)—while 50 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.
Contact Information and Referral with additional questions. 651.287.2303 or 1.800.779.0777, ext. 2303.