Facts and Statistics

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Need to Know Facts and Statistics About Epilepsy

Epilepsy General

  • Epilepsy is a disease of the brain that affects people of all ages
  • A person who has epilepsy has a tendency to have spontaneous, recurrent seizures
  • An estimated 65 million people worldwide* have epilepsy and 80% of them live in developing countries
  • Approximately 3% to 3.5% of Australians will experience epilepsy at some point in their lives
  • Over 250,000 Australians are currently living with epilepsy.

Diagnosis and Prognosis

  • In Australia, over 12,000 people a year are diagnosed with epilepsy**
  • Seizures can begin at any age, but epilepsy is most frequently diagnosed in childhood and people over 65 years of age (over 65’s more commonly than children)
  • At least 15% of people referred to an epilepsy specialist centre do not actually have epilepsy and have been previously misdiagnosed
  • Epilepsy is diagnosed if someone has:
    • at least two unprovoked (or reflex) seizures
    • one unprovoked (or reflex) seizure and a probability of further seizures happening
    • diagnosis of an epilepsy syndrome.
  • Epilepsy is not necessarily a lifelong disorder.
    • Many people outgrow or have a long-term remission from seizures.
  • Epilepsy is considered ‘resolved’ in someone who:
    • has an age-dependent epilepsy syndrome and is older than the applicable age
    • is seizure-free for 10 years, with no seizure medication for the last 5 years.
  • Epilepsy is linked with an increased risk of death, up to 2–3 times the general population, which may be related to:
    • an underlying brain disease, such as a tumour or infection
    • accidents or seizures in dangerous circumstances leading to drowning, burns or head injury
    • seizure emergencies – prolonged or repetitive seizures
    • sudden and unexplained causes – SUDEP
    • stopping breathing during a seizure
    • treatment related death
    • suicide

Types of Seizures

  • It is commonly thought that epilepsy always involves convulsions. In fact there are around 40 different types of epilepsy and epilepsy syndromes and many seizures are not convulsive.
  • Seizures can vary from the briefest lapses of attention, confusion or unusual behaviours, to falls or convulsions.
  • Seizures can also vary in frequency, some people may have less than 1 per year while others may have several a day
  • Not all seizures are epilepsy.

Treatment

  • With treatment, up to two-thirds of people with epilepsy can be seizure free, yet about three quarters of people in developing countries do not get the treatment they need.
  • After 2 to 5 years of successful treatment and being seizure-free, medications can be withdrawn in about 70% of children and 60% of adults without later relapse.
  • A small percentage of people may be suitable for epilepsy surgery.
    • Over half the number of people who have surgery become seizure free long term. Many others have fewer or less severe seizures after surgery.
  • Other treatment options for people who cannot obtain seizure control with medications include Vagus Nerve Stimulation, the Ketogenic Diet and more recently, Deep Brain Stimulation.

Lifestyle

  • Epilepsy can have a significant social and psychological impact and often affect employment opportunities
  • People with epilepsy can face social stigma, discrimination and exclusion. A fundamental part of reducing this stigma is to raise public and professional awareness.
  • People with epilepsy can obtain a driver’s licence if their seizures are controlled by medication or if they fulfill conditions and guidelines set out by the driving authorities.
  • Epilepsy is not a mental illness, but people with epilepsy are at higher risk of anxiety and depression.
References:
* Solomon L Moshé, Emilio Perucca, Philippe Ryvlin, Torbjörn Tomson. Epilepsy. The Lancet Published online: September 23, 2014
**WHO Epilepsy. Key Facts. 2019
International League Against Epilepsy 2020
Anuradha Singh, Stephen Trevick, The Epidemiology of Global Epilepsy, Neurologic Clinics, Vol 34 Issue 4, 2016, 837-847