Who Has Epilepsy? with Chris Gorham & Joe Sirven, M.D.

Anyone can have seizures, but they are more likely to start in people who are younger than 20 or older than 60. But epilepsy can affect anyone at any age. We don’t know why about half the people with epilepsy have it. Epilepsy can be hereditary or it can be genetic. Epilepsy can develop for a number of reasons, such as after a head injury, but many times not immediately after. Sometimes seizures can occur months or even years after an injury. Unfortunately, who is likely to develop epilepsy and why is still a big mystery in many cases. That’s why the Epilepsy Foundation focuses on supporting research, along with education, advocacy, supportive care, and so much else for people and families living with epilepsy. Research will help us solve the mysteries of who has epilepsy and why. Once we know that, it will be a lot easier to get to cures, and we can End Epilepsy once and for all.

Christopher Gorham: Millions of people in the United States and tens of millions around the world live with epilepsy. One in 26 people will develop epilepsy during their lifetime. Who is most likely to be diagnosed with epilepsy and why? Let’s find out.

Joe Sirven, M.D. (Mayo Clinic/Editor-in-Chief, Epilepsy.com): You hit it - there's 2 big groups in which we see seizures happen most frequently. When they're super young, so as a baby, seizures a little more likely to occur, and then the other group is when you are 65 years and older.

Greg: Really?

Joe: Yes, that's the group when we see seizures happen a lot.  But having said that, seizures can happen at any age. 

Greg: So wait, do you think it's because, on the young side, your brain is developing so rapidly, and (on the older side) you're losing brain cells at 65? (laughter) Why at 65 and up?

Joe: It has to do with what causes seizures in that group. Often times the biggest cause of seizures in an older adult group are strokes. Then  another group is Alzheimer's, which happens in older adults. 
When they're younger it's more to do with when things present, or there could be infection; because it's the immature brain that's firing off too much and not getting the brakes put on. So those are the big groups, but again - any age. 

Greg: Not more during puberty?

Joe: Oddly enough, not necessarily, although there are some that can occur and present during that time, but as a whole, as you take in the big picture as far as the biggest presentation of new seizures, really it's the younger and the older.

Greg: Wow, that's interesting.

Christopher: To learn more about epilepsy, be sure to visit epilepsy.com.