Disease of the nervous system, manifesting itself by attacks of unconsciousness, with or without convulsions. It frequently occurs in families where there is a predisposition to neurosis, and tends to appear in the offspring of parents who suffer from syphilis or alcoholism. Consanguineous marriage, while not causing its appearance in the offspring, may aggravate it where a neurotic tendency exists.
The infrequency of alcoholism and syphilis among Jews renders them less liable than others to the disease; while the frequency of hysteria, insanity, neuralgia, etc., coupled with consanguineous marriages, intensifies any predisposition toward epilepsy.
In a discussion on the pathology of the Jews before the Academy of Medicine at Paris in 1891, Charcot stated that at the Salpêtrière, the great hospital for nervous diseases at Paris, only 39 Jewish epileptics came under observation during a period of thirteen years.
Dr. Worms, physician to the Rothschild Hospital in Paris, showed that during a period of twenty-five years (1865-90), of 25,591 Jewish patients admitted into that institution, only 77 suffered from epilepsy. Considering the fact that the Jewish population of Paris during that time was about 43,500, Dr. Worms affirmed that this was a very small proportion.
Dr. C. L. Minor of Moscow, Russia, in an analysis of his cases of nervous diseases, finds that among his 1,480 Jewish patients 36 (2.4 per cent) were epileptics, as against 60 (3.5 per cent) among his 1,734 non-Jewish patients. Among the Jewish patients 15 had suffered from epilepsy before they reached the age of fifteen. Among the non-Jewish patients only 9 had had the disease before that age.
In the Craig Colony for Epileptics, New York, 1,286 patients had been admitted up to Oct., 1902. Of these only 57 were Jews—41 men, 16 women. Thus, while the Jewish population of the state of New York is estimated to be 6 per cent of the total population, the percentage of Jewish epileptics at the Craig Colony is only 4.43.
On the whole, the figures recorded seem to imply less liability to epilepsy on the part of Jews, notwithstanding a vague impression to the contrary.
- Lagneau, M. G. Sée, Worms,Chovet, Feré, Oser, in Discussion sur la Pathologie de la Race Juive, in Bulletin de I'Académie de Médecine de Paris, xxvi. 238-241;
- C. L. Minor, Sbornik v Polsku Yevreiskikh Narodnikh Shkol, St. Petersburg, 1898.