Epilepsy & Seizure Facts
Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder in the United States after migraine, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. About one percent of Americans have some form of epilepsy, and nearly four percent (1 in 26) will develop epilepsy at some point in their lives. The number of Americans who have epilepsy is greater than the number who have multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and cerebral palsy combined. 10% of Americans will have at least one seizure at some point in their lives.
Epilepsy is prevalent among other disability groups such as autism (25.5%), cerebral palsy (13%), Down syndrome (13.6%), and intellectual disability (25.5%). For people with both cerebral palsy and intellectual disability the prevalence of epilepsy is 40%.
Anyone can develop epilepsy at any time. Incidence is highest among the very young and the very old.
In about 60 percent of epilepsy cases, there is no known cause. Among the remaining 40 percent, the following causes are most frequent: traumatic brain injury, brain tumor, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, poisoning (e.g. lead poisoning, alcohol or drug abuse, etc.), infection (e.g. meningitis, encephalitis, and others), prenatal or birth trauma, and developmental or congenital disabilities. Genetic factors also play a role in some types of epilepsy, but we still have a great deal to learn about this.
There are about 20 different types of seizures and about 40 different types of epilepsy. It’s important for patients to ask their neurologists what type of seizures they are experiencing and what type of epilepsy is suspected. While most people are familiar with tonic-clonic or “grand mal” seizures, there are many types which are more subtle and can be easily confused with other conditions or behaviors. This can lead to misunderstanding or inappropriate reactions by onlookers and can also delay necessary diagnosis and treatment.