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Epilepsy rate amongst Texas adults unexpectedly high

22 January, 2001

Representatives of American epilepsy organisations have responded to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report showing that 1 in every 56 adults in Texas has epilepsy, nearly double the previous estimate, and that nearly half report that the condition severely impacts their quality of life.

"Estimates of the number of people with epilepsy vary," says Steven C. Schachter, a Harvard neurologist and chairman of the Epilepsy Foundation of American's Professional Advisory Board. "But most experts believe the prevalence to be about one in a hundred. The Texas study suggests that the currently accepted figure of 2.3 million people in the U.S. with the disorder may be too low. That so many adults struggle with the physical, emotional and social effects of seizures, despite treatment, confirms the findings of an earlier national survey in which the Foundation participated. Both studies clearly demonstrate that epilepsy is a major health problem that has not been solved."

The CDC report is based on a study that directly examined the health-related quality of life (HRQOL) of community-dwelling adults with epilepsy aged 18 years and above. The study used data from the Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). It found that 1.8 per cent of adults report their doctors have told them they have a seizure disorder or epilepsy.

According to the CDC report, "Almost half (45.9 per cent) of persons with epilepsy reported fair or poor health, compared with 18.5 per cent of persons without epilepsy."

The state-based study of 3,355 adults found that, compared to those without epilepsy, people with epilepsy reported more physically unhealthy days, more mentally unhealthy days, more overall unhealthy days, more days of pain, more days of depression, more days of anxiety, more days of insufficient sleep or rest, and fewer days of vitality. The level of unhealthy days for people with epilepsy is comparable to the burden of impaired quality of life experienced by those with such chronic conditions as arthritis, heart problems, cancer and diabetes.

The CDC says in an editorial note that, "Additional study is needed to determine whether the high number of days with pain in persons with epilepsy is associated with seizure severity, injuries from seizures, unintended effects of anticonvulsant medications, or other factors. The high number of days with depression and anxiety suggests that this population has high levels of anxiety and low levels of life fulfillment."