It seems that people have been misunderstanding epilepsy for as long as it’s been around. While we’re well past the days when epilepsy was seen as evidence of mental illness, many misunderstandings about epilepsy persist today. We would like to clear up three misconceptions about epilepsy we often hear.
Myth: Epilepsy is not a common disorder
Around five people in every 100 will have an epileptic seizure at some time in their life. Out of these five people, around four will go on to develop epilepsy. More eye-opening stats about epilepsy’s prevalence:
- 600,000 people in the UK have epilepsy
- 65 million people worldwide have epilepsy
- 1 in 131 people in the UK have epilepsy
- 1 in 3 people knows someone who has epilepsy
It’s interesting to note that epilepsy is more common than autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease combined. Yet it usually does not seem to capture as much public attention as these disorders.
Myth: Almost nobody with epilepsy dies as a result of their condition.
Sadly, this is not true. The mortality rate among people with epilepsy is two to three times higher—and the risk of sudden death 24 times greater—than that of the general population. What’s more, every year an estimated 25,000 to 50,000 people die of seizures and related causes, most notably sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP).
Myth: Epilepsy is always a life sentence.
Finally, some good news! While there is no 100% effective cure for epilepsy, generally people with epilepsy have seizures and require medication for only a small portion of their lives. About 80% of people with epilepsy treated with seizure medicines remain free of seizures for at least 2 years. Many never have any more seizures. And about 60% of people who develop seizures have epilepsy that can be easily controlled and is likely to remit or go away.