A high prevalence of epilepsy was found throughout Wales, except in Cardiff, with the highest epilepsy prevalence in the UK found in Merthyr Tydfil, according to quality framework figures for 2005/6. Prevalence was also high in Northern Ireland and in Greater Glasgow.
Professor David Chadwick, consultant neurologist at the University of Liverpool, said: ‘There is always a strong correlation between socio-economic grouping and prevalence of epilepsy. This is the most likely explanation for the patterns of epilepsy shown in the map.’
North Yorkshire GP Dr William Hall said that people with epilepsy were more likely to be economically disadvantaged and living in poorer areas.
A low prevalence of epilepsy was found in London and the surrounding areas of Surrey, Hampshire, Bedfordshire, Essex and the ThamesValley.
The lowest epilepsy prevalence in the UK was found in north-west London.
This may be because of the younger population found in London and the surrounding commuter areas.
Epilepsy is more common in older people, so areas with a high proportion of older people will have a higher prevalence of epilepsy, said Dr Hall.
The low prevalence of epilepsy in major cities such as London, Leeds and Cardiff may be because of better epilepsy services and a higher proportion of practices which have reviewed epilepsy diagnoses, he said.
‘The exact figures for epilepsy prevalence will depend on how good the diagnostic process has been and how the epilepsy has been managed.’
Ley Sander, professor of neurology and clinical epilepsy at University College London, said that rural and poorer areas were likely to have a higher prevalence of epilepsy, but that it could be found all over the country.
‘Hotspots of epilepsy prevalence are likely to be associated with areas with a high prevalence of learning disabilities.’
But Professor Sander added that it was hard to interpret the map because it was based on quality framework data and depended on the case-finding skills of the practices involved.