Epilepsy Statistics: How Many People Have Epilepsy in the US?

Written by Nina Julia | Last updated: February 14, 2023

Report Highlights:

  • 1.2% or 3.44 million Americans have epilepsy [48].
  • Epilepsy is the 4th most common type of neurological disorder in the US [13].
  • The most common type of seizure is focal or partial seizure, making up 56% of all seizure types [28].
  • 86.3% (2.97 million) of epilepsy cases are adults, and 13.7% (471,900) are children [48].
  • Epilepsy affects males and females almost equally at 1.1% and 1%, respectively [43].
  • This neurological disorder affects older individuals (55 to 64 years) the most at 1.4% [43].
  • 1.4% of Black Americans have epilepsy, making them the most affected ethnicity. However, due to their large population, Whites make up the bulk of the cases with 1.86 million [43].
  • Owing to its large population, California has the highest number of epilepsy cases in both adults (367,900) and children (59,800) [48].
  • 30% of people with epilepsy also have mental health issues [44].
  • 50% of children with epilepsy have learning difficulties [10].
  • 947 people (median number) die of epilepsy each year [9].
  • There had been a 100% increase in the epilepsy death rate and a 144.6% increase in the number of epilepsy deaths in two decades (1999 to 2020) [9].
  • It’s estimated that epilepsy cost the US $24.5 billion annually [35].
  • 93% of people (2.75 million) with epilepsy receive antiepileptic drugs [43].
  • 31.8% of the newly-diagnosed epilepsy cases remain untreated up to three years from diagnosis [27].

Epilepsy often describes neurological disorders that cause electrical disturbances in the brain, resulting in seizures.

The 4th most common neurological disorder, epilepsy affects 1.2% or 1 in 83 people in the US [13] [48].

Call out text box saying 1 in 83 Americans has epilepsy.

Epilepsy isn’t one of the leading causes of death in the US. However, its mortality rate has steadily gone up from 1999 to 2020. In just a little over two decades, the rate increased by 100%.

Read on to discover current epilepsy statistics and facts.

How Many Types of Seizures are There?

There are two classifications of seizures. In a study of 1,220 patients with seizures [28]:

  • Focal seizures or partial seizures make up the majority of the seizure types at 56%. This type affects only one area of the brain.
  • Generalized seizures make up 26.5% of the seizure types. This type affects both the right and left sides of the brain.

Generalized seizures are further classified into two [28]:

  • Tonic-clonic seizures make up 88% of the cases. Also called grand mal, this type causes the person to lose consciousness and fall to the ground. Muscle spasms may also accompany the attacks.
  • Absence seizures make up only about 1% of generalized seizure cases. Also called petit mal, it’s oftentimes characterized by rapid eye blinking. The person may also stare into space for a few seconds.

Focal or partial seizures have three subclassifications [28]:

  • Secondary generalized seizures make up the majority of cases at 25.5%. It’s characterized by one region of the brain seizing. The seizures then spread to the other side of the brain until both sides are now affected.
  • Complex focal seizures make up 23% of cases. This type also affects one part of the brain. However, simple focal seizures or aura typically precede the attack. The seizure attack causes the person to blink rapidly or stare into space. They may also exhibit automatisms or involuntary actions done unconsciously. These include repetitive gulping, chewing, lip-smacking, or even shouting. The attacks often leave the sufferer dazed and confused.
  • Simple focal seizures make up 7.5% of focal seizure cases. This type affects only a small part of the brain. It’s typically characterized by twitching. The person may also experience some sensation changes called aura. These include an odd smell or smell.

60% of people with seizures only have one type of seizure. 40% have multiple types of seizures [28].

How Many Seizures Can You Have in A Day?

About 47% of patients with seizures can have three or more seizures (called cluster seizures) within a 24-hour period [1].

Call out text box saying 47% of people with seizures have multiple attacks per day.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some can have as low as one seizure per year. However, some can also have several seizures per day [16].

The WHO also noted that about 10% of people globally have had at least one episode of seizure in their lifetime [16].

Most Common Cause of Seizure

25% to 30% of first seizures are provoked by a trigger [24]. These may be brain tumors, infections, traumas, or neurodevelopmental problems.

However, at least 4% of the general population will experience unprovoked seizures (no triggers) by age 80. 30% to 40% of them will have a second unprovoked seizure [22].

Common Cause of Seizures in Adults

40% to 60% of brain tumors may have accompanying seizures [45].

  • Having low-grade glioma, a type of tumor, increases seizure risk by 60% to 100%.
  • Glioblastoma, a type of glioma, carries a 40% to 60% seizure risk.

50% of patients with brain tumors exhibit seizure as a symptom [29].

Brain infection is also a major risk factor for seizures.

  • 31% of those who developed central nervous system infections exhibited acute symptomatic seizures [40].
  • 50% to 80% of people who contracted Japanese encephalitis exhibit seizures. It’s higher in children at 61% than in adults at 37% [49].

Traumatic brain injury can also cause seizures in adults.

  • 10% to as high as 50% of people who have had TBI experience seizures [14].
  • Another study found TBI to be the primary contributing factor to acquired epilepsy or post-traumatic epilepsy (PTE) [32].
    • PTE makes up 10% to 20% of the general population’s epilepsy cases. It accounts for 5% of all epilepsy types.
    • 57% of PTE cases among veterans are caused by TBI.

5% to 20% of people who suffered a stroke develop seizures at some point in their lifetime. 45% occurred within the first 24 hours (early onset) of suffering a stroke [36].

Common Cause of Seizures in Children

Febrile seizures, or convulsions caused by high fever, occur in up to 4% of children between 6 months to 5 years. This commonly occurs in fevers reaching more than 38 degrees Celsius or 100 degrees Fahrenheit [47].

  • Less than 10% of children can have febrile status epilepticus during their first febrile seizure attack. This seizure is also caused by high-grade fever. However, compared to febrile seizures, some attacks can last longer than 30 minutes. Several seizure attacks may also occur in short succession without the child regaining consciousness.
  • Recurrence remains high in 30% of children who have a history of febrile seizures. The risk is 50% higher in children who developed febrile seizures when they were less than a year old. By the following year, the risk drops to 30%.
  • 1% to 2% of children who had simple febrile seizures also developed epilepsy. The risk is 5% to 10% higher in children who had complex febrile seizures or those with a family history of epilepsy and neurodevelopmental problems.

25.2% or 534 out of 2,122 children who had severe TBI developed post-traumatic seizure (PTS) [5].

Brain infections increase the risk of developing epilepsy and seizures.

  • 5% to 15% of children who had cerebral malaria had status epilepticus as a neurological sequela [41]. Seizures in cerebral malaria are very common that more than 80% of children who had the disease get admitted for seizure. Of those who were admitted, 60% experienced recurrent seizures [25].
  • 23% of meningitis cases develop seizures [12].
  • 23% of central nervous system (CNS) infections develop acute seizures. Of those with CNS infections, 73% are caused by encephalitis. 44.6% of encephalitis cases develop seizures during the infection’s acute phase [31].

Neurodevelopment problems also contribute to the risk.

  • 8% to 13% of people with Down Syndrome or Trisomy 21 have epilepsy. 40% of them develop seizures in their early childhood. 40% of them also develop seizures in their 30s [39].
  • 20% to 40% of children diagnosed with cerebral palsy will experience epilepsy [3].
  • 12% to 38% of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have epilepsy [3].

There’s also a link between congenital heart disease (CHD) surgery and seizures. CHD can cause brain hypoxia and thrombus. Hypoxia deprives the immature brain of oxygen, and thrombus causes a pediatric stroke.

In a study that followed 247 children who underwent cardiopulmonary bypass for CHD [19]:

  • 2.4% of them developed seizures early pre-operation.
  • 1.6% also experienced seizures early post-operation.
  • 5.3% of the children had seizures late post-operation.

Epilepsy Prevalence: How Common is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is considered the 4th most common neurological disorder in the country [13]. The other three common neurological disorders include:

  • Migraine
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s disease

150,000 people receive an epilepsy diagnosis each year [13]. This means that for every 3.5 minutes, one person gets diagnosed with this neurological disorder.

Call out text box saying one person gets diagnosed with epilepsy every 3.5 minutes (150,000 new cases per year).

It’s also estimated that 1 in 26 people will, at some point in their lifetime, develop epilepsy [13].

How Many People in the US Have Epilepsy?

2015 estimates show that 1.2% of the American population has epilepsy. This translates to 3.44 million people living with the diagnosis. With 2.97 million individuals, adults make up 86.3% of the total epilepsy cases [48].

Children, on the other hand, make up 13.7% of epilepsy cases with 471,900 individuals [48]. Epilepsy affects 0.6% of children below 17 years of age [17].

How Many People Have Epilepsy Globally?

According to the WHO, epilepsy affects 50 million people globally [16]. This makes epilepsy one of the most common neurological disorders in the world.

Nearly 80% of those suffering from epilepsy live in low-income as well as middle-income countries. 75% of those who live in low-income countries don’t receive epilepsy treatment [16].

Epilepsy Demographics

Epilepsy is more prevalent among men at 1.1%, older adults (55 to 64 years) at 1.4%, and Black Americans at 1.4%.

However, the bulk of the total cases is men with 1.33 million, middle-aged people (35 to 54 years) with 867,000 individuals, and White Americans with 1.86 million people.

California has the highest number of epilepsy cases with 427,700 or 12.43% of the total epilepsy cases. Wyoming, on the other hand, has the lowest number of cases with 5,900 or 0.17% of the total cases.

Epilepsy Statistics by Gender

Epilepsy affects men and women almost equally, with men making up 50.73% of the total cases. The disorder affects 1.1% or 1.33 million of the country’s male population [43].

Epilepsy affects 1.0% of the female population. This translates to 1.29 million women, and they make up 49.27% of the total cases [43].

Data came from CDC’s 2013 to 2015 National Health Interview Survey.

Men have a slightly higher prevalence rate, and factors that may contribute to this include [23]:

  • Occupational risks
  • Higher exposure to external risks like head trauma, accidents, and alcohol use
  • Lower consultation rate among women

Epilepsy Statistics by Age Group

Older adults aged 55 to 64 have the highest epilepsy rate, affecting 1.4% of their age group [43].

Epilepsy affects people aged 65 and older the least. Only 0.9% of their population suffers from epilepsy [43].

However, middle-aged people make up the bulk of the total cases at 33.17% or 867,000 individuals [43].

People aged 65 and older have the least number of epilepsy cases at 404,000. They make up only 15.46% of the total cases [43].

Epilepsy Statistics by Ethnicity

Epilepsy occurs the most among Black Americans, affecting 1.4% of their population [43].

However, the majority of the country’s epilepsy cases are White Americans. They make up 71.01% of the cases or 1.86 million individuals [43].

Black Americans, on the other hand, make up only 15.33% or 401,000 of the total cases [43].

Epilepsy Statistics by State

California has the highest number of epilepsy cases (all ages) with 427,700 cases [48]. Owing to its large population, California makes up 12.43% of the country’s total epilepsy cases.

The state also has the highest number of adults (18 and over) with the condition. It affects 367,900 of their population, making up 12.40% of the total cases [48].

Likewise, California also has the highest number of children (17 and below) with epilepsy. Of the 471,900 cases, 12.67% or 59,800 of them live in California [48].

The state with the second highest epilepsy cases (all ages) is Texas. The state makes up 8.52% of the total cases with 292,900 [48].

Florida makes up 6.51% or 223,900 of the total cases, making it the third state with the highest number of epilepsy cases (all ages) [48].

Wyoming, on the other hand, has the lowest number of epilepsy cases (all ages). Of the total cases, the state makes up only 0.17% with 5,900 [48].

Wyoming also has the least number of adults with epilepsy. They make up 0.17% of the total cases with 5,100 [48].

However, the state with the least number of children with epilepsy is Vermont. They make up 0.15% of the total cases with 700 [48].

Vermont is also the second state with the least number of epilepsy cases (all ages), making up 0.18% of the total cases with 6,300 [48].

Alaska ranks third place with 7,200. The state makes up 0.21% of the total cases (all ages) [48].

Complication of Epilepsy

Living with epilepsy is challenging. In addition to the symptoms of epilepsy, they also have to deal with numerous complications. These include not just comorbid mental health problems but injuries and learning problems as well.

1. Comorbid Mental Illness

30% or nearly one-third of adults with epilepsy also have comorbid mental illnesses [44].

Call out text box saying nearly one-third of people with epilepsy also have some type of mental illness.

Common comorbid mental health problems with epilepsy include:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Major depression
  • Schizophrenia

37% of people with epilepsy have depression, and 26% have anxiety [38].

More than 40% of children with epilepsy have some type of attention deficit problem [10].

2. Learning Problems

Seizures also affect a child’s IQ, and 40% of children who suffer from seizures have an intellectual disability [3].

Call out text box saying nearly 40% of children with seizures also have intellectual disabilities.

50% of children with epilepsy deal with some type of learning difficulty, compared to only 15% of the general population [10].

20% to 29% of children with epilepsy have some form of mental retardation, compared to 1% to 2% of the general population [10].

44% of children and 54% of adults with severe epilepsy also have cognitive impairments and neurological problems [6].

3. Injury and Accident Risks

People with epilepsy have a 10% to as high as 70% risk of accidental injuries [6].

Call out text box saying injury and accident risk is 10-70% higher in people with epilepsy.

The lifetime prevalence of seizure-related injuries (SRI) is higher among adults at 27% to 30%, compared to 9% to 12.6% of newly-diagnosed children with epilepsy [6].

The first-ever SRI risk at one year of age is 5%. This increases to 26.1% when the individual is 20 years old [6].

Types of Injuries Associated with Seizure-Related Injuries

Soft tissue injuries make up the bulk of SRI in both children (26% to 44%) and adults (up to 85%) [6].

Bone fractures are also very common, occurring in 34% to 43% of people with epilepsy [6].

Tongue injuries as well as teeth fracture occur in 9% to 27.2% of children and 5% to 10% of adults with epilepsy [6].

3.7% to 10.2% of adults with epilepsy sustain burn injuries [6].

2.9% of severe submersion or drowning accidents among children are caused by seizures. People with epilepsy have a 4 to 13.9 times higher risk of drowning [6].

4. Car Accident Risks

Of all motor vehicle accidents (MVA) involving people with epilepsy, 11% involve seizures [30].

Call out text box saying 11% of MVAs involving people with epilepsy are seizure-related.

Seizure-related MVAs caused only 0.1% to 0.2% of all fatal MVAs, compared to 30% of alcohol-related fatal MVAs. 8% to 18% of it involves a first seizure attack [26].

People with epilepsy are [26]:

  • 1.13 to 2.16 times more likely to be involved in a serious motor vehicle accident
  • 2.2 times more likely to get into a pedestrian accident
  • 1.7 times more likely to get involved in a bicycle accident

5. Pregnancy Complications

15% to 32% of pregnant women with epilepsy develop worsening epilepsy frequency and severity [8]. Hormonal changes may have something to do with the worsening symptoms since they affect the brain cell’s excitability.

54% to 80% of pregnant women with epilepsy experience no significant changes in the severity and frequency of their seizures [8].

However, pregnant women with epilepsy have a 10 times higher risk of maternal mortality than pregnant women without the disorder [8].

Pregnant women with epilepsy have a 4% to 14% risk of their offspring developing a major malformation. Among the general population without the disorder, the risk is only 1% to 4% [8].

6. Surgery Risks and Complications

Of those who had resective surgery for epilepsy, 5.1% had minor medical complications and 1.5% had major medical complications [20].

  • Minor complications affected children more at 5.7%, compared to 4.3% of adults.
  • 4.5% of children also had more major complications than 1.7% of adults.

8.5% of them had cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak. It’s the most common type of minor complication and affected 14.3% of children compared to 4.3% of adults [20].

3.6% had aseptic meningitis. 5.8% of children developed aseptic meningitis, compared to 3.4% of adults [20].

3.0% had bacterial meningitis. It’s more common among children at 3.9% than adults at 1.9% [20].

2.5% developed an intracranial hematoma. It affected children more at 4.0% than 2.0% of adults [20].

10.9% of those who had resective surgery for epilepsy had minor neurological complications, while 4.7% had major neurological complications [20].

  • Minor neurological complications were higher among children at 11.2%, compared to adults at 5.5%,
  • On the other hand, 5.1% of adults had major neurological complications, compared to 3.3% of children.

Minor visual field defect was the most common type of neurological complication. It affected 12.9% of epileptic people who had resective surgery. 15.7% of adults developed the condition, compared to 6.3% of children [20].

Minor psychiatric problem is the second most common type of neurological complication. It affected 5.5% of patients. Minor memory problems rank third, affecting 5.1% of patients [20].

7. Status Epilepticus Risk

16% to 38% of epileptic children as well as 42% to 50% of epileptic adults have status epilepticus [46].

Call out text box showing the percentage of adults and children with epilepsy affected by status epilepticus.

7.6% to as high as 22% of people who experienced status epilepticus die within 30 days (short-term mortality). This risk is highest among older people [46].

30% of epilepsy diagnoses initially presented with status epilepticus [7].

45% to 74% of those with status epilepticus have generalized convulsive status epilepticus. Not only is this type the most common but also the most severe [7].

8. Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP)

1 in 1,000 people with epilepsy dies from sudden unexplained death each year. This translates to 3,000 SUDEP annually. It appears highest among people aged 21 to 40 years [42].

Call out text box saying SUDEP causes 3,000 deaths per year.

SUDEP makes up 2% to as high as 18% of all epilepsy-related deaths [37].

Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy is higher among those with:

  • Drug-resistant epilepsy
  • Uncontrolled seizures
  • Grand mal seizures

Earlier age of epilepsy onset and noncompliance with antiepileptic medications also increase SUDEP risk.

Epilepsy Death Rate: How Many People Die from Epilepsy?

The median number of people who die from epilepsy annually is 947. Data came from CDC’s 1999 to 2020 record of epilepsy deaths [9].

Call out text box saying 974 people with epilepsy die yearly.

A total of 25,236 people have died from epilepsy from 1999 to 2020 [9].

The number of epilepsy deaths has steadily climbed over the years.

In 1999, there had only been 841 epilepsy deaths. By 2012, the country breached its 1,000 mark in epilepsy deaths with 1,092 [9].

Less than a decade later, the number of epilepsy deaths nearly doubled to 2,057 in 2020. This said year also saw the country breaching its 2,000 mark in epilepsy deaths [9].

In two decades (1999 to 2020), the number of epilepsy deaths increased by 144.6%.

Epilepsy’s death rate has also steadily increased throughout the same period.

In 1999, the death rate from epilepsy was 0.3 per 100,000. By 2018, the rate doubled to 0.6 per 100,000 and remained constant through 2020 [9].

Does the increase in epilepsy mortality rate mean that epilepsy cases are on the rise?

Is Epilepsy on the Rise?

The 100% increase in death rate between 1999 and 2020 raises alarm. Epilepsy, by itself, is a rare cause of death. It isn’t even one of the leading causes of death in the country, representing only 0.6 per 100,000 of all deaths in 2020. However, we can't deny we’re seeing an increasing rate of epilepsy deaths.

According to one study, three key factors may have contributed to the increase in the epilepsy death rate [11].

1. Epilepsy prevalence increased.

From 1% of the general population or 2.3 million epilepsy cases in 2010, the prevalence increased by 49.6% in 2015 to 1.2% or 3.44 million [34] [48]. That’s a 20% increase in epilepsy rate or an additional 1.14 million people at risk of premature death.

However, population growth and an aging population may have something to do with the increased epilepsy prevalence rate [34].

Immigration to the US from countries with high epilepsy cases may have also contributed to the spike in epilepsy rates, says the study [11].

2. Neurological disorder-related deaths increased.

From 1999’s 84,077 to 2017’s 216,352, the crude death rate of all neurological disorder-related deaths increased by 157.3%. When adjusted for age, it showed an increase of 80.8% [11].

The increase in neurological disorder-related deaths may have also contributed to the increase in epilepsy mortality rates.

Epilepsy is a type of neurological disorder and contributes as high as 25% to the global burden. Many neurological disorders also have seizures and epilepsy as comorbid symptoms or disorders [11].

3. The underlying causes of death in epilepsy changed.

The other underlying causes of epilepsy deaths have increased. Vascular dementia deaths in people with epilepsy increased by 210.1%. Alzheimer’s disease deaths in people with epilepsy also increased by 216.8% [11].

These neurological conditions are epilepsy risk factors. As the population grows and ages, so do the prevalence rates and death rates of these diseases. These, in turn, also contribute to epilepsy death rate.

The epilepsy death rate may have increased considerably in the past two decades. But several factors have led to it.

Epilepsy Death Demographics

Based on 2020 data, the majority of the total epilepsy deaths are men (55.91%), younger adults aged 30 to 34 years (8.65%), and White Americans (59.65%).

Epilepsy Death Rate by Gender

Of the 2,057 epilepsy-related deaths in 2020, men make up 55.91% or 1,150. Based on the crude rate, 0.7 per 100,000 men die from epilepsy each year [9].

Women make up 44.09% of the total deaths or 907 out of 2,057 deaths. 0.5 per 100,000 women die of epilepsy annually [9].

Epilepsy Death Rate by Age Group

Older people aged 75 to 79 years have the highest crude death rate with 1 per 100,000 people. Epilepsy death rate is lowest among children aged 5 to 9 years with 0.1 per 100,000 [9].

However, younger people (30 to 34 years) make up the bulk of epilepsy-related deaths at 8.65% or 178 out of 2,057 deaths. Older people (95 to 99 years) make up the least number of deaths at only 0.53% or 11 deaths [9].

Epilepsy Death Rate by Ethnicity

Owing to their larger population, White Americans make up the bulk of epilepsy-related deaths with 59.65% or 1,227 out of 2,057 deaths [9].

Asian, on the other hand, makes up the lowest percentage of the total deaths at 1.51% or 31 deaths [9].

Based on the crude rate, epilepsy-related death is highest among Black Americans and AIAN at 1.1 per 100,000 each. It’s lowest among Asians at only 0.3 per 100,000 [9].

Epilepsy Death Rate by State

Owing to its large population, California makes up 13.47% of the epilepsy-related deaths in 2020 with 277 deaths [9].

Texas follows at 8.22% with 169 deaths. Florida makes up 5.98% with 123 deaths [9].

New Hampshire, on the other hand, has the lowest number of epilepsy-related deaths with 10, making up only 0.49% of the total deaths [9].

Rhode Island and Montana make up 0.53% each of the total deaths with 11 deaths per state [9].

West Virginia makes up 0.58% of the total deaths with 12 deaths [9].

Based on the crude death rate, Utah has the highest epilepsy-related death rate with 1 per 100,000. Colorado, Minnesota, South Carolina, and New Mexico rank second with 0.9 per 100,000 deaths each [9].

The states that rank third with 0.8 per 100,000 crude epilepsy-related deaths include [9]:

  • Michigan
  • Indiana
  • Missouri
  • Tennessee
  • Oregon
  • Iowa

Maryland has the lowest epilepsy crude death rate at 0.4 per 100,000 [9].

Cost of Epilepsy

The US spends $28 billion annually on epilepsy direct costs, with per-patient annual epilepsy cost amounting to about $15,414 [18].

Of the $15,414, 38% ($5,895) went to outpatient care [18].

The second highest expense is inpatient and emergency department costs. These make up 24% of the annual cost per person with $3,682 [18].

20% or $3,122 go to antiepileptic medications, while 11% or $1,667 go to other drugs [18].

Patients with uncontrolled epilepsy spend 67.92% more on annual overall healthcare costs than people with controlled or stable epilepsy.

People with stable epilepsy spend about $13,839 on annual overall healthcare costs. People with uncontrolled epilepsy, on the other hand, spend $23,238 annually. It’s $9,399 higher than those with stable epilepsy [18].

Percentage of People with Epilepsy Receiving Antiepileptic Treatment

93% (2.75 million) of the 2.97 million people with active epilepsy take antiepileptic medications. About 42.4% (1.18 million) became seizure-free [43].

Call out text box saying 93% of patients with epilepsy take antiepileptic drugs.

With appropriate antiepileptic medications, 70% of epilepsy cases can become seizure-free, says the CDC [43].

One study noted though that 25% to 30% of epileptic patients have drug-resistant epilepsy [21].

Call out text box saying 25% to 30% of people with epilepsy deal with drug-resistant epilepsy.

30% to 40% of those who tried first-generation antiseizure drugs also responded poorly to the treatment because of side effects [21].

There’s also the issue of epilepsy treatment gap in the US.

According to the study, 31.8% of people with newly-diagnosed epilepsy do not receive treatment up to three years after their initial diagnosis [27]. Factors affecting epilepsy treatment gap include lack of access to treatment or inadequate epilepsy treatment. This increases complication risks, which could have been prevented by early medical intervention.

31.8% of people newly diagnosed with epilepsy don’t receive treatment for up to 3 years from diagnosis.

Common Seizure Medication

Lamotrigine not only has the highest retention rate of 78.6% after 12 months but also the highest seizure-freedom rate of 54.1% [4]. Of the different drugs, lamotrigine seems to be the most effective and well-tolerated antiepileptic.

Levetiracetam ranks second with a 72.5% retention rate and a 42.6% seizure-freedom rate [4].

The third most effective drug is valproate sodium. It has a retention rate of 69.6% and a seizure freedom rate of 27.8% [4].

The least effective antiepileptic drug is oxcarbazepine. It has the lowest retention and seizure-freedom rates of 23.5% and 9.4%, respectively [4].

Carbamazepine has the second lowest retention rate of 48.4%. Phenytoin, on the other hand, has the second lowest seizure-freedom rate of 18.2% [4].

Data came from a comparative study of 10 anti-seizure medications.

Natural Remedies for Seizures: CBD for Seizures

91.9% or 34 out of 37 patients with epilepsy reported that CBD oil significantly improved their epilepsy symptoms [33].

Of the 91.9%, 73.0% (27) say their symptoms improved by more than 50%. 18.9% (7) say they became seizure-free [33].

Only 5.4% (2) reported less than 50% improvement in symptoms [33].

22 out of 37 patients have epileptic developmental encephalopathy. Of this number, 86.4% (19) say their symptoms improved by more than 50%. One patient became seizure-free, while one patient reported less than 50% improvement in symptoms [33].

17 out of 37 patients have focal motor seizures. Of this number, 82.4% (14) reported a marked improvement of more than 50%. 11.8% (2) became seizure-free, while one reported less than 50% improvement in symptoms [33].

11 out of 37 patients have tonic-clonic seizures. 54.5% (6) noted more than 50% improvement in symptoms and 27.3% (3) reported they became seizure-free. One noted less than 50% improvement in their epilepsy symptoms [33].

9 out of 37 patients have focal epilepsy. CBD oil was able to improve symptoms in 55.6% (5) of the patients. 33.3% (3) became seizure-free, while one experienced less than 50% improvement in symptoms [33].

While none reported worsening of epilepsy symptoms, 24.3% or 9 out of 37 patients did say they developed some side effects [33].

The most common side effect was somnolence, which was experienced by 77.8% (7) of the patients. 22.2% (2) of them also developed appetite loss [33].

Another study also noted CBD, as a natural remedy to treat epilepsy, reduced seizures by 38% to 41% in patients with Lennox–Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, compared to placebo’s 13% to 19% [2].

Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) Therapy 

49% of people with intractable epilepsy who received vagus nerve stimulation reported a more than 50% reduction in their seizure frequency within the first four months after implantation of the VNS device. Of this percentage, 5.1% became seizure-free [15].

By 24 to 48 months after implantation, 63% of the patients were already showing improvement in their seizure frequency. The number of patients who became seizure-free also increased to 8.2% [15].

Data came from a review of 5,554 patients from the VNS Therapy Patient Outcome Registry and 2,869 patients from 78 studies.

Summary and Epilepsy Support (Resources and Hotline)

Epilepsy affects 1.2% of the American population, the majority of which are adults. From 2010 to 2020, the number of people with epilepsy and the number of epilepsy deaths have increased by nearly 50% and over 100%, respectively.

Medications help control seizures but they can’t cure epilepsy. They can only help reduce the frequency, intensity, and severity of epileptic seizures.

This neurological disorder causes a significant economic burden not only on the patient but on the country as well.

If you or a loved one is impacted by epilepsy and seizure, be sure to seek professional help immediately to prevent complications. You may also reach out to Epilepsy Foundation for additional information and epilepsy support. You can get in touch with them via their helpline numbers at 1-800-332-1000 (English) or 1-866-748-8008 (en Español).


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Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.