Epilepsy in North America: a report prepared under the auspices of the global campaign against epilepsy, the International Bureau for Epilepsy, the International League Against Epilepsy, and the World Health Organization

Epilepsia. 2006 Oct;47(10):1700-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2006.00633.x.


In North America, overall epilepsy incidence is approximately 50/100,000 per year, highest for children below five years of age, and the elderly. The best data suggest prevalence of 5-10/1000. Potential effects of gender, ethnicity, access to care and socioeconomic variables need further study. Studies of epilepsy etiology and classification mainly were performed without modern imaging tools. The best study found an overall standardized mortality ratio (SMR) for epilepsy relative to the general population of 2.3. There is evidence to suggest a greater increase in patients with symptomatic epilepsy, particularly children. People with epilepsy are more likely to report reduced Health-related Quality of Life than controls. They have reduced income, and are less likely to have full-time employment. They suffer from persistent stigma throughout the region, in developed as well as developing countries. Poor treatment access and health care disparities for people with epilepsy may be related to insufficient economic resources, rural isolation, gender, ethnicity, and lack of public and physician knowledge of modern approaches to epilepsy care. Despite high costs and severe disability, epilepsy may attract somewhat less research funding from public and private sources than other less common chronic neurological disorders. A Plan for Epilepsy in North America should address: basic and clinical research; primary prevention research; translation to care; stigma, quality of life, and self-management; industry relations; government and regional relations; and regional integration and resource sharing.

MeSH terms

  • Epilepsy / diagnosis
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology*
  • Epilepsy / mortality
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • International Agencies
  • North America / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Research Support as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • World Health Organization