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9 Facts about Epilepsy

9 Facts about Epilepsy

Mar. 26th, 2022

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes seizures and unusual behavior due to a central nervous system malfunction.

150,000 Americans are diagnosed with epilepsy each passing year. Experts estimate that 1 in 26 Americans will be diagnosed with epilepsy in their lifetime, making this a neurological disorder that many people face.1

Here are 9 facts about epilepsy to help you learn more about this central nervous system disorder as well as some tips you can use to help those experiencing a seizure.

Epilepsy Can Affect Anyone, Any Age

Anyone can develop epilepsy at any age. However, according to the Epilepsy Foundation, epilepsy is more common in children and older adults. Men are also slightly more likely to experience epilepsy than women.2

In the latest 2015 survey cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are roughly 3.4 million people with epilepsy nationwide. 3 million of those cases are adults and 470,000 are children.3

Up to 10% of People Will Have a Seizure in their Lifetime

It is estimated that 10% of people worldwide will have a seizure in their lifetime. In order for a seizure to fall under the category of epilepsy, a person must experience two or more seizures.4

It has been found that anything that interrupts the normal connections between nerve cells can cause a seizure. Some common conditions that lead to seizures include brain concussions, high or low blood sugar levels, high fever, and alcohol or drug withdrawal.5

Up to 70% of People with Epilepsy Can Be Seizure-Free

Experts estimate that up to 70% of people with epilepsy can live seizure-free if they find the right treatment. It is also estimated that up to 25% of epilepsy cases are preventable if head injuries, drug use, and strokes caused by cardiovascular conditions were reduced.4

Another fact about epilepsy is that 80% of the epilepsy cases worldwide are found in low income areas and countries. Unfortunately, 75% of low income patients do not receive treatment at all, and this is due to the fact that medications may be unavailable in poorer regions of the world.6

Seizures Do Not Last Long

While there are many different types of seizures, most of them last from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. When someone has a seizure, they will lose control, become disoriented, and their movements will become unpredictable in their legs and arms.7

It’s important that if someone near you is having a seizure, stay calm and let it pass. Only call 911 if the seizure goes on longer than expected or if the person has difficulty waking up afterwards.

You Can’t Swallow Your Tongue During a Seizure

One common myth of people who experience seizures is that they can accidentally swallow the tongue. However, this is impossible, as the tongue is a muscle connected to the mouth. Many people will say that they feel as though they swallowed their tongue due to the fact it can fall back into the throat and block the air passage.

When people experience seizures, they commonly will bite their tongue. In a 2017 survey, it was found that 52.4% of people who had seizures experienced injuries on their lips, tongues, and cheeks from the biting.8

It’s important to never place an object or someone’s fingers in the mouth of a person experiencing a seizure because this can cause a broken jaw, teeth, or choking. Many people falsely believe that placing an object in someone’s mouth can prevent injuries, but instead it puts a person undergoing a seizure more at risk. If someone needs help, find a safe place to pull them aside and place them onto ground. Remove their glasses and any clothing that may get in the way, and place something on their head to help cushion it.9

The Greek philosopher Hippocrates was the First Person to Believe that Epilepsy started in the Brain

Back in Ancient Greek times, people believed that those with epilepsy had it because of the gods, which made epilepsy a sacred disease. Hippocrates, a philosopher known as “The Father of Medicine,” believed that diseases had natural causes, and he was one of the first to stand for the idea that diseases did not come from the gods. He deducted that because epilepsy affected thinking, a malfunction in the brain caused it.10

Today, there has been much research on what causes epilepsy. In some cases, there is no known cause, but research has linked to some cases being genetic. A few common causes of epilepsy are strokes, Alzheimer’s, trauma, congenital conditions, or head trauma.11

People with Epilepsy are More at Risk for Drowning

Experts usually recommend that people swim with at least one other person to ensure that someone can get help in case of an accident. It is especially important that those who have epilepsy swim with others who can help them, as a study found that those with epilepsy are 15-19 times more likely to drown.12

One reason why people with epilepsy are at risk for drowning is due to the possibility of having a seizure in the water. A person undergoing a seizure is incapable of controlling their body and arm movements, which can make them unaware of their situation during an episode.

Surgeries Can Help Stop Epilepsy

Another fact about epilepsy is there are surgeries available that can remove the part of the brain where the seizures originate from. There are different types of epilepsy surgery, with the most common kind called focal resection, which removes a “seizure focus” (where the seizures begin) part of the brain.13

A doctor will use a series of brain scans to determine if brain surgery can help their patient. They will use a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test to determine if the brain has any damaged cells or tumors that may be causing seizures. They will also use baseline electroencephalogram, which is a test that uses electrodes to identify areas the seizure affects.14

Epilepsy Awareness Day is March 26th

Each year, March 26th is known as Epilepsy Awareness Day or Purple Day. It was originally started by Cassidy Megan due to her own struggles with epilepsy and her goal to educate others about the brain disorder.15

Today, Epilepsy Awareness Day helps to inform people about the signs of epilepsy, counter common myths about it, and help those with epilepsy feel included in society. Many people will also wear the color purple in support of showing awareness.

Spread Awareness About Epilepsy

It’s important to help spread awareness about epilepsy to help people learn the steps they should take if someone experiences a seizure. Spreading awareness about epilepsy can also help those who may currently experience it seek a proper diagnosis and treatment from their doctor.

To learn more about epilepsy, check out The Epilepsy Foundation for more resources.

Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.


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  9. Sissions, Beth. Biggers, Alana, ed. “Can you swallow your tongue?” Medical News Today. Accessed 15 March 2021. Link:
  10. Baloyannis, S.J. “Epilepsy: A way from Herodotus to Hippocrates.” Elsevier Inc., Epilepsy & Behavior. 2012. Accessed 22 March 2022. Link:
  11. Schachter, Steven. C. “What Causes Epilepsy and Seizures?” Epilepsy Foundation. 19 March 2014. Accessed 22 March 2022. Link:
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  13. Gregory D. Cascino MD et. all. Koubeissi, Mohamad, ed. “Types of Epilepsy Surgery.” Epilepsy Foundation. October 2018. Accessed 22 March 2022. Link:
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  15. “Epilepsy Awareness / Purple Day – March 26, 2022.” National Today. Accessed 22 March 2022. Link: