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Dramatic drop in child epilepsy

4th February 2013

Cases of epilepsy in children have fallen significantly in the UK over the last 10 years.

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Figures from a study of GP-recorded diagnoses show the incidence has fallen by as much as half in that time with the US and countries across Europe displaying a similar trend.

Data from more than 344,000 children showed that the annual incidence of epilepsy has fallen by 4-9% year on year between 1994 and 2008. Overall the number of children born between 2003 and 2005 with epilepsy was 33% lower than those born in 1994-96.

It led researchers to conclude that overall, the incidence dropped by 47%.

Writing in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, the researchers say that better use of specialist services and increased caution over diagnosing the condition is a factor in the decline.

Study author Professor Ruth Gilbert, director of the Centre for Evidence-based Child Health at University College London, said it was reassuring that the fall in cases in the UK was following a similar pattern elsewhere.

“We’re getting better at diagnosing and deciding who should be treated and then there is also probably an effect of factors like fewer cases of meningitis,” she said.

However, Epilepsy Action warned that the research may not have revealed the complete picture with some clinicians reporting a different scenario.

Deputy chief executive Simon Wigglesworth said: “They tell us that they are not seeing a reduction in the number of children with epilepsy presenting at their clinics and epilepsy remains one of the most prevalent neurological conditions in children in the UK.”

 

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