In the mid-1800s, the first effective anti-seizure medication, bromide, was introduced. The first modern treatment, phenobarbital, was developed in 1912, with phenytoin coming into use in 1938.
The International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) provided a classification of the epilepsies and epileptic syndromes in 1989 as follows:
As of 2015 , about 39 million people have epilepsy. Nearly 80% of cases occur in the developing world. In 2015, it resulted in 125,000 deaths, an increase from 112,000 in 1990. Epilepsy is more common in older people. In the developed world, onset of new cases occurs most frequently in babies and the elderly. In the developing world, onset is more common in older children and young adults due to differences in the frequency of the underlying causes. About 5–10% of people will have an unprovoked seizure by the age of 80, and the chance of experiencing a second seizure is between 40 and 50%. In many areas of the world, those with epilepsy either have restrictions placed on their ability to drive or are not permitted to drive until they are free of seizures for a specific length of time. The word epilepsy is from Ancient Greek ἐπιλαμβάνειν, "to seize, possess, or afflict".
Seizures result in direct economic costs of about one billion dollars in the United States. Epilepsy resulted in economic costs in Europe of around 15.5 billion Euros in 2004. In India epilepsy is estimated to result in costs of US$1.7 billion or 0.5% of the GDP. It is the cause of about 1% of emergency department visits (2% for emergency departments for children) in the United States.
This classification was widely accepted but has also been criticized mainly because the underlying causes of epilepsy (which are a major determinant of clinical course and prognosis) were not covered in detail. In 2010 the ILAE Commission for Classification of the Epilepsies addressed this issue and divided epilepsies into three categories (genetic, structural/metabolic, unknown cause) that were refined in their 2011 recommendation into four categories and a number of subcategories reflecting recent technologic and scientific advances.
International Epilepsy Day (World Epilepsy Day) began in 2015 and occurs on the second Monday in February.
As an add-on therapy in those who are not well controlled with other medications, cannabidiol appears to be useful in some children. In 2018 the FDA approved this product for Lennox–Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.