Facts and Statistics
- Anyone can be affected by seizures at any age, but epilepsy is most frequently diagnosed in infancy, childhood, adolescence and old age3.
- According to the World Health Organisation, epilepsy is the world's most common serious brain disorder1.
- Epilepsy is more than three times as common as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and cerebral palsy.
- Epilepsy is a condition of the brain, not a mental illness.
- It is estimated that over 800,000 people in Australia will be diagnosed with epilepsy at some stage in life2.
- It is estimated that over 250,000 Australians are living with epilepsy2. Approx 3% to 3.5% of Australians will experience epilepsy at some point in their lives.
- Approximately 25,000 people in Australia are diagnosed with epilepsy each year.
- An estimated 2.4 million new cases occur each year globally1.
- Around the world an estimated 50 million people have epilpesy at any given time1.
A seizure is an event - a disruption of the normal electrochemical activity of the brain - and epilepsy is the disease characterised by tendency to have recurrent epileptic seizures
Under certain circumstances anyone can have a seizure
Epilepsy is now considered “resolved” for people who have an age-dependent epilepsy syndrome but are now past the relevant age, or people who have been seizure-free for 10 years, with no antiepileptic medication for 5 years.
- It is commonly thought that epilepsy always involves convulsions. In fact there are
around 40 different types of epilepsy and epilepsy syndromes.
- Incidence of epilepsy in developing countries is almost double that of developed countries.
- Up to 70% of people gain full seizure control with treatment but in developing countries, over 80% of people with epilepsy may not receive the treatment they need.
- A small percentage of people may be eligible for surgery. Approximately 70% of people who have epilepsy surgery become seizure free.
- Treatment options for people who cannot get seizure control with medications include Vagus Nerve Stimulation and the Ketogenic Diet.
- Up to 15% of people referred to an epilepsy specialist centre do not actually have epilepsy and have been previously misdiagnosed.
- People with epilepsy can obtain a driver’s licence if their seizures are controlled by medication or if they fulfil the guidelines set out by the driving authorities.
- Many people outgrow or have a long term remission from seizures. Epilepsy is not necessarily a lifelong disorder.
- Epilepsy can have profound social, physical and psychological consequences.
- People with epilepsy can face social stigma and exclusion. A fundamental part of reducing this stigma is to raise public and professional awareness.
Epilepsy is associated with an increased risk of death, which may be related to:
- An underlying brain disease, such as a tumour or infection.
- Seizures in dangerous circumstances, leading to drowning, burns or head injury.
- Prolonged or ongoing seizures (Status epilepticus).
- Sudden and unexplained causes.
- A possible respiratory or cardio-respiratory arrest during a seizure.
1 World Health Organisation, http://www.who.int/mental_health/neurology/epilepsy/en/
2 Based upon a combination of WHO figures and Population figures obtained from ABS (3101.0)
3 WHO, ILE, ILEA Global Campaign against Epilepsy, 2003; WHO Fact Sheet No. 165, 2001