How common is epilepsy in seniors?

Epidemiologic studies of several populations1-5 have found that the incidence of seizures, epilepsy, or both is high within the first few years of life, stabilizes over the second through fifth decades, and then rises again. In some studies the incidence in seniors approaches or exceeds the rate seen in infancy.

In Rochester, Minnesota,4 newly diagnosed epilepsy was seen in 139 of 100,000 persons age 75 or older, vs. 44 per 100,000 throughout the lifespan. Calculations based on 1990 US census data and incidence and prevalence data from the Mayo clinic suggest that in this country there are 331,000 persons older than age 65 with epilepsy and that 41,700 of them have new-onset cases.5

These numbers are below those for stroke and dementia but comparable to those for such other age-related conditions as Parkinson’s disease.6

Adapted from: Bromfield EB. Epilepsy and the elderly. In: Schachter SC, Schomer DL, eds. The comprehensive evaluation and treatment of epilepsy. San Diego, CA: Academic Press; 1997. p. 233-254.
With permission from Elsevier (

Authored By: 
EB Bromfield
Reviewed By: 
Steven C. Schachter, MD
Wednesday, June 30, 2004