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Epilepsy Health Center

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Survey Shows Under 2% Have Epilepsy

U.S. Adults With Epilepsy More Likely to Report Other Health Problems
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 7, 2008 -- More than 1.5% of adults in the U.S. have been diagnosed with epilepsy -- a number that is likely to increase as the population ages, according to a new study published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The study, the first of its kind, reports that 1.65% of non-institutionalized adults surveyed from across the country have been told by a doctor they have epilepsy or a history of epilepsy. The study looked at responses from 19 states and found 2,027 adults aged 18 years or older reported ever being told they had epilepsy.

Some respondents (0.84%) reported having active epilepsy, meaning they are currently taking medication for epilepsy or have had at least one seizure in the past three months. And 0.75% of people are classified as having inactive epilepsy; these people have a history of epilepsy or seizure disorder but were not taking medication or experiencing seizures in the three months before the survey. The prevalence of the disease is not substantially different based on race, gender, or home state.

The researchers found that adults with a history of epilepsy and active epilepsy are more likely to have other health problems, such as obesity, arthritis, and strokes; they are also are more likely to be unemployed and live in homes with low household incomes. These people are more likely to be current smokers.

While the study, based on 2005 data, provides a baseline, the authors call for additional research. "Population-based epidemiological studies of epilepsy are important for policymakers and health-care providers to plan and provide prevention programs and appropriate care and services for those affected," the study says.

The paper is based on data from The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), an ongoing, state-based, telephone survey of the non-institutionalized U.S. adult population. In 2005, 19 states included questions on epilepsy or seizure disorder.

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