Epilepsy Found to Be More Common in U.S. Than Thought

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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.

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