Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Understanding epilepsy


Misconceptions hinder treatment

For nearly three thousand years, people believed that epilepsy had a supernatural cause. But the most dangerous misconception about epilepsy is a modern one, according to epilepsy expert Jerome Engel, Jr., M.D., Ph.D.--many people, including physicians, still believe that epilepsy can’t be treated.

"Epilepsy and epileptic seizures are far more common than people realize," said Dr. Engel, Jonathan Sinay Professor of Neurology and Neurobiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, chief of epilepsy and clinical neurophysiology at the UCLA Center for the Health Sciences and director of the UCLA Seizure Disorder Center, Reed Neurological Research Center, Los Angeles.

Dr. Engel spoke today at an American Medical Association media briefing in partnership with the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) and the American Epilepsy Society at the AAN’s annual meeting in San Francisco.

Epileptic seizures are a sign of brain dysfunction. "A very simple way to explain a seizure might be as overactivity in the brain, often, though not always, the result of an injury," he said. "Epilepsy is the chronic condition that results when these brain disturbances persist. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital, because seizures should be stopped before the patient suffers irreversible damage."

Forty million people worldwide have epilepsy. Five to 10 percent of the U.S. population will have a seizure during their lifetime and of those, 30 percent will develop epilepsy. The burden of this disease, however, can’t be understood simply through the numbers, according to Dr. Engel.

"Uncontrolled epilepsy presents an enormous personal burden," said Dr. Engel. "Seizures happen without warning and are frightening and embarrassing; they can result in accidental injury or even death. Imagine the restrictions this places on an active life. A person with epilepsy can’t drive a car, hold certain jobs, or participate fully in recreational activities."

"This is a disease that strikes the young, often children," Dr. Engel said. "This means years and years of disability, lost years of good quality of life and lost earnings. When these elements are factored in, the impact of epilepsy worldwide is equal to the impact of breast cancer in women and lung cancer in men."

The restrictions on daily activity and years of disability would be bad enough, but they are made worse by the stigma that is still attached to epilepsy. "Even today a surprising number of people believe epilepsy is supernatural, caused by possession," said Dr. Engel. "Many people still believe that epilepsy is a psychiatric disorder or mental retardation. An editorial in the British Medical Journal recently put it well: "The history of epilepsy is 3000 years of ignorance, stigma, and discrimination and 100 years of knowledge, stigma, and discrimination."

The most destructive misperception about epilepsy is that it can’t be effectively treated. "Even physicians often believe that seizures can’t be stopped, leading to treatment delays that can result in preventable, irreversible disability," said Dr. Engel. "Our treatment objectives should be no seizures, no side effects and the earliest possible intervention."

Guidelines can have an enormous impact on treatment by educating physicians and directing research goals. "Last year, the American Academy of Neurology introduced guidelines stating that surgical treatment for temporal lobe epilepsy is effective, but did not answer the question of how quickly it should be considered’," said Dr. Engel. "Their recommendation has resulted in the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) committing $30 million dollars for the Early Randomized Surgical Epilepsy Trial (ERSET) to address this issue."

Media Advisory: To contact Jerome Engel, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., contact Dan Page at 310-794-0777 or On the day of the briefing, call the AMA’s Science News Department at 312-464-2410, the AAN Press Room at 415-978-3521 or email

Dan Page | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Advanced analysis of brain structure shape may track progression to Alzheimer's disease
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts General Hospital

nachricht Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow
26.10.2016 | Duke University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Advanced analysis of brain structure shape may track progression to Alzheimer's disease

26.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

More VideoLinks >>>