Washington, DC, December 27, 2010 –Epilepsy, a common and serious neurologic disorder that affects millions of people, is not getting the public attention and funding for research it deserves, according to an editorial on a study published in the January 4, 2011, print issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“Epilepsy has a major impact on public health. A national approach to monitoring epilepsy trends is desperately needed in order to monitor the impact of improvements in epilepsy care, to identify problems with epilepsy care that need to be corrected, and to provide up-to-date data for researchers,” said Edwin Trevathan, MD, MPH, Dean of the St. Louis University School of Public Health in St. Louis and a member of the Neurology® Editorial Board.

In the corresponding study, scientists aimed to discover the lifetime risk of developing epilepsy. They analyzed data on 412 people from Rochester, Minn., diagnosed with epilepsy between 1960 and 1979. The study found that at least one in 26 people will develop epilepsy in their lifetime. The risk was higher in the elderly, with a risk of 1.6 percent in people under age 50 and a 3.0 percent risk for people up to age 80.

“Our results highlight the need for more research using epilepsy surveillance data, especially given the aging population in the United States. Such surveillance will also provide useful information for health care planners as they address the service needs of people with epilepsy,” said study author Dale C. Hesdorffer, PhD, associate professor of clinical epidemiology in the Sergievsky Center at Columbia University Medical Center.

“The study by Hesdorffer and colleagues is an important analysis of the potential number of patients of epilepsy in the United States,” said Joseph Sirven, MD, Chair-Elect of the Epilepsy Foundation’s Professional Advisory Board “Two important points can be gleaned from this study, 1) Older adults are more at risk for developing epilepsy and 2) there is a far greater number of individuals who will develop epilepsy at some point in their lifetime. The study suggests up to 12 million Americans will develop epilepsy which is a greater number than expected. 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.”

Source: The American Academy of Neurology

The study was supported by the National Institute for Neurologic Disorders and Stroke and the National Institutes of Health.

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