Who Does Epilepsy Affect?

Nearly three million people in the United States either have been diagnosed with epilepsy or have seizures. Approximately 200,000 new cases of seizures and epilepsy occur each year. However, it’s important to note that having a seizure does not necessarily mean that a person has epilepsy. Only when a person has had two or more seizures is he or she considered to have epilepsy. There are many causes for epilepsy and it may be difficult to establish the cause of a person’s epilepsy. In seven out of every 10 cases, doctors cannot pinpoint the exact source.

Epilepsy can start at any age, but 50 percent of all cases occur before the age of 10. About 300,000 American children under the age of 14 have epilepsy, with about 45,000 new cases diagnosed each year. The incidence (“incidence” means the number of new cases of a disease that occur in one year) is highest at both ends of the age spectrum: under the age of two and over the age of 65. Boys are slightly more likely to develop epilepsy than are girls. For most of these children, the problem is not a serious one; the condition is well controlled with medication and often outgrown after a few years. For others, however, epilepsy may present a lifelong health challenge. Approximately 25 to 30 percent of people with epilepsy will continue to experience seizures even with the best available therapies. Doctors call this situation “intractable epilepsy” — which means that the seizures are resistant to treatment or difficult to treat.

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Who Gets Epilepsy?