Qué es la Epilepsia? Attitudes and knowledge of epilepsy by Spanish-speaking adults in the United States

Joseph I. Sirven, Ricardo A. Lopez, Blanca Vazquez, Peter Van Haverbeke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Background. Spanish-speaking adults are the largest minority population group in the United States and are disproportionately afflicted by epilepsy. Methods. A unique 78-item survey instrument conducted entirely in Spanish and devoted to the topic of epilepsy was administered to 760 Spanish-speaking adults in seven large U.S. Hispanic metropolitan areas representing a cross section of the U.S. Hispanic community. The answers were compared with those of 272 non-Hispanic controls administered the same survey in English in June 2004. Results. The Hispanic sample correlated well with U.S. Census data. Spanish-speaking adults are mostly unaware about epilepsy, with 21% reporting no familiarity with the condition (P = 0.0001). The vast majority of Hispanics use the term convulsiones or ataque to describe a seizure. Thirteen percent of Hispanics with less than high school education believe that epilepsy is contagious (P = 0.0001); 8% see "sins" as a cause of seizures (P = 0.0001); and 10% agree that "exorcism" would be a good remedy (P = 0.002). Conclusions. There is considerable misinformation about epilepsy in the U.S. Hispanic community. Neurologists must be made aware of U.S. Hispanic attitudes and beliefs regarding epilepsy to provide culturally competent care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-265
Number of pages7
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2005


  • Epilepsy
  • Healthcare disparities
  • Hispanics
  • Seizures
  • Stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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