SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The number of people in the U.S. who live with epilepsy is on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The agency analyzed national and state-specific trends in epilepsy. Since 2010, the number of adults with the brain disorder rose from 2.3 million to 3 million, and 470-thousand children have been diagnosed.
Epilepsy can cause a variety of seizures — some are obvious when they cause patients to shake and fall. Others may simply look like the patient is staring into space.
Experts say you can help patients by keeping them safe during an episode, then seeking medical attention.
The CDC says the rise in epilepsy cases is likely caused by population growth.
Dr. Jonas Vanags, a neurologist with St. Joseph/Candler, says another reason for the increase could be related to the baby boomers.
“It (the report) theorized that the population is increasing, therefore the incidents of it is increasing as well. You know we do have an aging population and so the baby boomers are getting older. So the incidence of epilepsy is, is, you know, two different ports in your life where you get epilepsy: young in life into early adulthood, but also in the elderly. But as the elderly population becomes more numerous than I would think that the amount of epilepsy out there would increase as well.” said Dr. Vanags.
Epilepsy accounts for about $15.5 billion in direct costs (medical) and indirect costs (lost or reduced earnings and productivity) each year.
Adults with epilepsy report worse mental health, more cognitive impairment, and barriers in social participation. People with epilepsy also experience health and social disparities, such as worse health related quality of life and low socioeconomic status.
Children younger than age 2 years and adults older than 65 are more likely to have epilepsy because risk factors are more common in these age groups.
Delayed recognition of seizures and inadequate treatment increase a person’ s risk of subsequent seizures, brain damage, injuries, disability, and early death.
More than one-third of people with epilepsy continue to have seizures despite treatment. People with epilepsy often have other chronic conditions that need to be managed, such as depression, heart disease, and asthma.
Although epilepsy is widely recognized by the public, it is poorly understood, even among people who know someone with the disorder. Public misunderstanding and stigma can limit life opportunities for people with epilepsy.
Dr. Vanags says there are resources available to epileptics in the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry, like the Epilepsy Foundation, with chapters in Georgia and South Carolina. But the best resource is the family doctor. “First of all your primary care doctor and then your neurologist is probably one of the greatest sources of of information, but there are resources also out there, there is the Epilepsy Foundation.” Dr. Vanags.