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Epilepsy Found to Be More Common in U.S. Than Thought
Date:12/28/2010

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 27 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests that one of every 26 people in the United States will develop epilepsy at some point in their life.

That's a higher rate than previously believed and, experts say, highlights the need for more funding and attention to the condition.

"This study is an important analysis of the potential number of patients of epilepsy in the United States," said Dr. Joseph I. Sirven, the chairman-elect of the Epilepsy Foundation's professional advisory board and a professor and chairman of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Sirven, who was not involved in the study, noted that it makes two important points:

  • Older adults are more at risk for developing epilepsy.
  • A greater number of people will develop epilepsy during their lifetime than thought.

"The study suggests up to 12 million Americans will develop epilepsy, which is a greater number than expected," Sirven said. "Moreover, this is a conservative estimate and not the worst case scenario as the lifetime risk would be higher in more urban areas. Clearly, more attention needs to be paid to this condition."

The findings are published in the Jan. 4 issue of Neurology.

For the study, Dale C. Hesdorffer, an associate professor of clinical epidemiology at Sergievsky Center at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, and her research colleagues looked for the likelihood of developing epilepsy among residents of Rochester, Minn., between 1960 and 1979.

They identified 412 people with the disease during that period and calculated the lifetime risk of developing epilepsy at 1.6 percent up to age 50 and 3 percent up to age 80.

Over the years, the lifetime risk increased from 3.5 percent in the 1960-1969 time frame to 4.2 percent for 1970 to 1979, the researchers found.

"Our results highlight the
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