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CDC Releases New Data on Epilepsy from Multiple States

For Immediate Release: August 7, 2008


Contact: CDC′s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office of Communication, Phone: 770-488-5131



A multi-state study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that about one out of 100 adults have active epilepsy, and more than one-third are not getting sufficient treatment. The study, which examined the prevalence of epilepsy or seizure disorder in 19 states, was published in today′s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Epilepsy affects an estimated 2.7 million people in the United States and costs about $15.5 billion in medical costs and lost or reduced earnings and productivity each year.

“Despite having recent seizures, more than one out of three adults reported not seeing a neurologist or epilepsy specialist in the past year,” said Dr. David Thurman, one of the study’s authors and a neurologist in CDC′s Division of Adult and Community Health. “These findings suggest that adults with uncontrolled seizures may not be receiving the optimal medical treatment they need and may face substantial impairments in their daily activities.”

The study found that nearly half (44 percent) of adults with active epilepsy reported having recent seizures. Of those, 65 percent said they had more than one seizure in the past three months. Inadequate medical treatment for epilepsy greatly increases a person’s risk for subsequent seizures, disability, injuries sustained during a seizure, and, in rare cases, death. However, many people with epilepsy lead normal productive lives.

The study, which is based on state-specific data from the 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, collected data from more than 120,000 adults 18 and older.

Epilepsy is a chronic neurological condition that occurs when recurrent abnormal electrical activity in the brain causes involuntary changes involving body movement or function, sensation, awareness, or behavior.

Adults with epilepsy experience significantly worse health-related quality of life than those without epilepsy. The report found that adults with epilepsy were more likely to be unemployed, face limitations in their normal activities such as socializing with friends, and experience other health risks such as cigarette smoking and physical inactivity.

“While epilepsy is one of the most common neurological conditions, most people know very little about this disorder, or how to support those with epilepsy,” said Janet Collins, Ph.D., director, CDC′s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “We hope this report, which provides the largest and most comprehensive data on epilepsy in the United States, can help states and public health agencies better understand the prevalence of epilepsy, as well as epilepsy-associated conditions and limitations.”

For more information about CDC′s work on epilepsy, visit http://www.cdc.gov/epilepsy/.

CDC also works in partnership with the Epilepsy Foundation (http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/) to support educational programs for schools, police and emergency responders, employers, and the general public that raise awareness about epilepsy and reduce stigma associated with the condition.

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