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Epilepsy Rates on the Rise in the United States

Epilepsy prevalence increased by 700,000 between 2010 and 2015.
Published Online: Aug 22,2017
Laurie Toich, Assistant Editor
A new report from the CDC indicates that the number of Americans with epilepsy is increasing, with more than 3.4 million individuals diagnosed. This is the first time that the CDC has estimated epilepsy prevalence for each state.

The new findings suggest that epilepsy is widespread, according to the CDC.

In 2010, approximately 2.3 million adults were diagnosed with epilepsy, which increased to 3 million in 2015. Additionally, there were only 450,000 children with active epilepsy in 2010 and 470,000 children with the condition in 2015, according to the report.

The authors indicate that the increases observed were likely due to the population growth rather than other factors.

“Millions of Americans are impacted by epilepsy, and unfortunately, this study shows cases are on the rise,” said CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, MD. “Proper diagnosis is key to finding an effective treatment – and at CDC we are committed to researching, testing, and sharing strategies that will improve the lives of people with epilepsy.”

Epilepsy is a serious condition that results in various types of seizures. Conditions such as stroke, brain tumor, head injury, central nervous system infections, or genetics can result in epilepsy. The understanding of epilepsy among the general population, and even among patients who have the condition, is poor, according to the CDC.

The new study is based on state-specific data for epilepsy prevalence based on the 2015 National Health Interview Survey, the National Survey of Children’s Health, and the 2014 Current Population Survey. 

The authors found that 1.2% of the overall population had epilepsy in 2015. The number of cases of epilepsy throughout the country ranged from 5100 cases in Wyoming to 367,900 cases in California, according to the study.

The investigators also found that 11 states reported approximately 92,000 residents with active epilepsy.

The CDC has previously found that many adults with epilepsy face issues with working, finding transportation, and affording medical care. Additionally, younger patients are likely to fall behind in school or require special education. Children with the condition are more likely to live in low-income areas, according to the CDC.

These findings highlight the importance of understanding epilepsy, as it has become more prevalent in the United States.

The CDC said that there are more than 30 different types of seizures, which range in symptoms from confusion to falling and shaking. Bystanders should ensure that the individual is safe during the seizure and call 911 for emergency assistance, according to the CDC.

“Epilepsy is common, complex to live with, and costly. It can lead to early death if not appropriately treated,” said Rosemarie Kobau, MPH, head of the CDC’s Epilepsy Program. “Everyone should know how to recognize a seizure and how to give appropriate first aid.”