Many Adults With Epilepsy Not Treated
Burden of Disorder Has Great Impact on Quality of Life, Study Shows
Oct. 31, 2007 -- More than a third of adults living with epilepsy reported
being too physically disabled to hold a job in a new survey, and one in four
said they did not take medication even though they had active seizures.
Based on the results, researchers with the CDC and the UCLA School of Public
Health estimated that about 1% of Californians, or 300,000 residents, have a
history of epilepsy and 0.7%, or 182,000, have active seizures or take medicine
to control seizures.
People with epilepsy had more physical and mental health problems than
people without the disorder.
The study, published in the October issue of the journal Epilepsia,
was conducted to better understand the burdens of adults living with epilepsy
in the community, CDC public health advisor and study co-author Rosemarie
Kobau, MPH, tells WebMD.
"We confirmed that the burden of impaired quality of life is
substantial, as is the burden of unemployment and poverty," Kobau says.
"It is clear that adults with epilepsy need better access to specialized
medical care to control seizures and the effects of living with
Living With Epilepsy
The findings were derived from data collected in the 2003 California Health
Interview Survey (CHIS), the nation’s largest state health surveys and one of
the most comprehensive.
Among the adults with epilepsy, 36% of those with active epilepsy reported
being physically disabled or unable to work, compared with 5% of the population
at large. Twenty-two percent of people who were ever told they had epilepsy
rated their overall health as poor, compared with 4.5% of the general
And 45% of those ever told they had epilepsy reported having annual
household incomes of less than $25,000, compared with 29% of the general
The researchers also found a greater percentage of people with a history of
epilepsy or who were having active seizures to be active smokers and to never
walk for transportation or exercise.
Adults with recent seizures reported between nine and 12 days during the
previous month of impaired physical or mental health, or days when their daily
activities were limited, compared with only two to four days among people
without the disorder.
Many Patients Aren’t Treated
Among people who reported still having seizures, 26% also said they took no
medications to control them.
CDC epidemiologist David J. Thurman, MD, says it is clear from the finding
that a substantial minority of adults with epilepsy are not getting optimal or
even minimal care.
"We think that two-thirds of patients can be completely controlled,
meaning no seizures at all, with appropriate medications and that the remaining
one-third could have the frequency of their seizures greatly reduced," he
While most adults with active epilepsy reported having health insurance and
having access to regular care, Thurman says the responses may not reflect the
true picture of what is going on.
"Our concern is that access issues may keep many people from getting
optimal care with appropriate medications," he says. "People who
receive care only from hospital emergency departments are likely to run out of
medication from time to time. This is not optimal care."