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Who Is At Risk For Epilepsy ?

Aug 17, 2007
Almost 2.7 million Americans have been afflicted with epilepsy. That means 9 out of every 1000 Americans have the disorder.

Although statistics show that more men are afflicted with epilepsy than women, everybody is susceptible to having epilepsy. It can happen to any body, of any race and at any age. However, people with certain conditions are at greater risk of acquiring epilepsy.

It can be remembered that in the twentieth century, some states in America banned people from marrying for fear of passing on the disease to their children. Some even had to go through sterilization to prevent reproduction. This is due to the widespread belief that epilepsy is 100 per cent hereditary. This practice only stopped with the passage of the Disabilities Act.

And yet, although epilepsy is not necessarily inherited, the family members of a person with epilepsy have a higher risk of developing the disease. The siblings of a child with epilepsy, for example, are more likely to develop the disorder. This is not because epilepsy is contagious but is due to the likelihood of a genetic tendency to develop epilepsy. More so, epilepsy is more likely to occur in siblings of the child who suffers from generalized seizures. In fact about 4 to 10 per cent of the other children in the family will develop epilepsy. But this still depends on the type of epilepsy and the number of afflicted family members.

In addition, children of parents with epilepsy are also at a greater risk of developing epilepsy, pegged at 5 per cent. The risk for children whose father has epilepsy is slightly higher than children whose mother has the disorder. However, the risk is even higher if both parents have epilepsy. Although genetics is a risk factor in developing epilepsy, the risk is relatively low and should not be a cause of great alarm. In addition, even if the children develop the disorder, most of them will definitely outgrow epilepsy by the time they become adults. The advances in modern medicine make it possible to control seizures.

Age is another factor in the development of epilepsy. Although the disorder can strike at any age, children and teenagers are more susceptible. In fact, almost 50 per cent of all cases of epilepsy occur before ten years of age while 30 per cent of the cases are those with ages 10-19. The remaining 13 per cent are people aged 20-29 while ten per cent are those aged 30 and above. Although children have a higher risk of developing the disorder, they tend to experience a reduction in frequency and intensity of the seizures as they grow into adulthood. Some even outgrew the disorder completely.

In addition to the genetic and age factors, people with certain conditions pose a greater risk of developing epilepsy. Studies confirm that up to 5 per cent of the world's total population may experience a single seizure at one point in their lives. Half of seizure cases without a clear cause are more likely to suffer a second seizure within a span of six months. Having two of such seizures, there is 80 per cent chance that it is epilepsy. Although the exact cause of epilepsy cannot be pinpointed, there are known factors that double the chances of developing epilepsy. Such risk factors include the following:

Babies who experience seizures during their first month
Babies with inborn abnormal brain structures
Babies who are too small for their gestational age
Brain hemorrhage or internal bleeding
Abnormal or unstable blood vessels in the brain
Brain injuries
Lack of oxygen to the brain
Cerebral Palsy
Brain infections such as abscess, encephalitis and meningitis
Brain tumors
Mental illness
Stroke due to the blockage of arteries
Early posttraumatic seizures
Degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease
Drug abuse
Fever-related seizures

Even though finding out the cause of epilepsy is nearly impossible, the best thing one can do is to avoid the so-called seizure triggers such as intoxication, nutritional deficiencies, over-the-counter drugs that decrease the effectiveness of seizure medicines, severe stress, lack of sleep, drug abuse and missed medications.
About the Author
Gaetane Ross is a Certified Natural Health Consultant who has spent 4 years focusing on Nutrition and Health. She also specializes in Alternative Medicine. Gaetane's mission is to positively transform the lives of everyone she meets by providing advice on Healthy Living.

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