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National Epilepsy Awareness Month — November 2012

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month. Epilepsy, which can occur at any age, is characterized by recurrent, unprovoked seizures (1). Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurologic disorder in the United States, after migraine, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease (1) but is not as well understood as less prevalent conditions such as Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis. Approximately one in 26 persons will develop epilepsy at some point in their lives (2). Delayed recognition of seizures and subsequent inadequate treatment increase the risk for additional seizures, disability, decreased health-related quality of life, and, in rare instances, death (3).

The recently released Institute of Medicine report, Epilepsy Across the Spectrum: Promoting Health and Understanding, stresses that although effective treatments are available for many types of epilepsy, 1) timely referrals and access to those treatments are lacking, 2) epilepsy care and prevention could be enhanced by better data from surveillance and research, 3) education of persons with epilepsy and their families should be thorough and include health literacy and cultural considerations, and 4) the stigma of epilepsy must be eliminated (2).

Additional information regarding epilepsy is available at


  1. Hirtz D, Thurman DJ, Gwinn-Hardy K, Mohamed M, Chaudhuri AR, Zalutsky R. How common are the "common" neurologic disorders? Neurology 2007;68:326–37.
  2. Institute of Medicine. Epilepsy across the spectrum: promoting health and understanding. Washington, DC: The National Academy Press; 2012. Available at Accessed November 8, 2012.
  3. Gilliam F. Optimizing health outcomes in active epilepsy. Neurology 2002;58(8 suppl 5):S9–20.

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