CDC Estimates 3.4 Million Americans Living with Epilepsy

"Epilepsy is common, complex to live with, and costly. It can lead to early death if not appropriately treated," said Rosemarie Kobau, MPH, head of CDC's Epilepsy Program. "Everyone should know how to recognize a seizure and how to give appropriate first aid."

The number of U.S. adults and children with epilepsy is increasing, and at least 3.4 million people are living with the disorder -- an all-time high, according to data released Aug. 10 in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. This is the first time epilepsy estimates have been available for every state, according to the agency.

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 and the number of children with it rose from 450,000 in 2007 to 470,000 in 2015. The increases are likely due to population growth, CDC reported.

"Millions of Americans are impacted by epilepsy and, unfortunately, this study shows cases are on the rise," said CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald. "Proper diagnosis is key to finding an effective treatment – and at CDC we are committed to researching, testing, and sharing strategies that will improve the lives of people with epilepsy."

Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain that causes seizures. Different conditions can cause epilepsy, such as a stroke, brain tumor, head injury, central nervous system infections, or genetic risks.

The number of cases of active epilepsy among adults ranged from 5,100 in Wyoming to 367,900 in California; epilepsy cases among children ranged from 800 in Wyoming to 59,800 in California. Estimated cases exceeded 92,000 in 11 states.

CDC researchers and others have previously reported that many adults with epilepsy face challenges including work limitations, difficulty finding transportation, and difficulty affording medical care. Students with epilepsy are more likely to fall behind in school and to need special education services, and children with epilepsy are more likely to live in low-income households. "Epilepsy is common, complex to live with, and costly. It can lead to early death if not appropriately treated," said Rosemarie Kobau, MPH, head of CDC's Epilepsy Program. "Everyone should know how to recognize a seizure and how to give appropriate first aid."

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