Epilepsy and the African American Community

One in 26 could be anyone. Epilepsy strikes regardless of race.
Epilepsy and the African American Community

More people live with epilepsy than with autism spectrum disorders, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy combined. But silence, fear and myths around epilepsy persist in every community, including African American communities.

Lack of awareness about the condition, challenges accessing health care and health information, and misinformation and fear associated with the condition make it hard for many African Americans with epilepsy and their families to live full and healthy lives.

Epilepsy affects 350,000 African Americans. Nearly 24,000 new African American patients are diagnosed with epilepsy every year.

African Americans are also:

  • More likely to be diagnosed with epilepsy in an emergency room than white Americans*
  • More likely to develop epilepsy over a lifetime (called lifetime prevalence) than white Americans*
  • Likely to experience status epilepticus, a medical emergency in which a seizure continues for 10 minutes or more without stopping
  • At an increased risk for Sudden Unexpected Death from Epilepsy (SUDEP)
  • Less likely to experience active epilepsy (which means that the person’s seizures are not completely controlled) than white Americans*
Epilepsy and the African American Community

*Source: National Research Council. (2012). Epilepsy Across the Spectrum: Promoting Health and Understanding. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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Reviewed by: Joseph I. Sirven, MD | Patricia O. Shafer, RN, MN on 3/2014
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