EPILEPSY 101

Webster defines epilepsy as any of various disorders marked by abnormal electrical discharges in the brain and typically manifested by sudden brief episodes of altered or diminished consciousness, involuntary movements, or convulsions.

More commonly defined as an electrical storm in the brain.

Epilepsy is a general term for a variety of neurological conditions characterized by recurrent unprovoked seizures.  A seizure is a brief disturbance in the electrical activity of the brain that causes temporary changes in movement, awareness, feelings, behavior, or other bodily functions.

Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder in the United States after migraines, 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.  Based on August 11, 2017, US Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevent, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report, Mississippi has an estimated 35,700 active epilepsy cases with 5,100 eighteen years of age and under while there are 30,600 eighteen years of age and older. 

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 the U.S., In 2015, about 3 million U.S. adults and 470,000 children had active epilepsy (under treatment or with recent seizures). The number of adults with active epilepsy rose from 2.3 million in 2010 to 3 million in 2015. The number of children with the condition increased from 450,000 in 2007 to 470,000 in 2015. These increases are likely due to population growth.

In about 70 percent of epilepsy cases, there is no known cause.  Among the remaining 30 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.

The risk of sudden death in people with epilepsy is over 20 times greater than in the general population–people with poor seizure control being at the greatest risk.

Just as many people die of complications from a seizure that dies of Breast Cancer.

Lack of knowledge about proper seizure first aid exposes affected individuals to injury from unnecessary restraints and from objects needlessly forces into their mouths.

There are about 20 different types of seizures and about 40 different types of epilepsy.