Epilepsy is not a disease, it is a disorder. People who have epilepsy are fully capable of leading a normal life. Read on to find out more...
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that is estimated to occur in 0.5% to 1% of the population of any country. According to the Department of Neurology, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Karachi, one in every hundred Pakistani has epilepsy and at least 5 family members are affected in some way or the other due to it. The condition is also twice as common in rural areas as compared to the urban. Epilepsy is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain that causes a temporary disturbance in the messaging systems between the brain cells.
Unfortunately, the condition has been stigmatised in the country due to misinformation. Recently, a press conference was held in a bid to create awareness regarding epilepsy at Najumuddin Auditorium at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) to squash the certain stereotypes of the disorder. According to Prof Dr Hasan Aziz, “It is a common misconception among unaware people that an epilepsy attack is a work of some ‘evil spirit’ or ‘supernatural beings’, or that person can be cured by sniffing a shoe. It is not contagious and is rarely hereditary; and it does not affect your intellectual capabilities. A person can live their life normally if they take their prescribed medicines on time, take care of their diet and sleep.”
There have been many famed personalities like Newton, Tolstoy, Socrates, Da Vinci, to our very own Abdul Sattar Edhi, Nadia Jamil and Suhaee Abro, who are epileptic.
Nadia Jamil, actress and mother of two young boys, was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2011, and has not let that get in the way of her work, “As an actress I need my body to work and as a mother I always have to be energetic. Initially, there was a sense of panic and the limitations of my body hit me, like it would for a person with asthma or diabetes. But, medications have helped me. I cook, clean, shop for groceries, ride a bicycle, work and run after my boys without fear. Epilepsy can be handled with medications and a little care in terms of lifestyle - getting proper rest and full sleep. To anyone who has epilepsy, you are not sick, there isn’t anything that you can’t accomplish. It’s not a disease, it is a condition which can be controlled if taken care,” stated Nadia Jamil while talking to this scribe.
According to National Epilepsy Centre (NEC) at JPMC, in about 70 per cent of the cases, there seems to be no obvious cause of the condition. However, for the remaining cases, strokes, brain tumours, head trauma (such as occurring during a car crash), infectious diseases (for example: AIDS), congenital abnormalities (prenatal injury, or brain damage that occurred before birth), or development disorders (such as autism or neurofibromatosis) are some of the factors that increase the risk of epilepsy.
The key symptom of epilepsy is repeated seizures. One should immediately consult a doctor if it is a recurring matter. A person may experience convulsions with no fever, short spells of blackout, fainting spells during which bowel and bladder isn’t in control. The person may do unexplainable things such as suddenly become stiff, have bouts of blinking or chewing, or do repetitive or jerking movements.
For diagnosis, a person goes through a complete physical and neurological exam, and their clinical history is taken along with a detailed account of their seizure that occurred. Additional testing may include EEG (Electroencephalogram) that detects the brain’s electrical activity.
The epileptic seizures can be controlled with antiepileptic drug (AED) therapy. The doctor will prescribe the dosage according to several factors for a particular individual like age, gender, overall health and the severity of the seizures. So, it is mandatory to take the prescribed dosage with punctuality.
In some cases, if there is an underlying brain condition that is causing these seizures, surgeries can be recommended. And, if the AEDs don’t work, the next step could be surgery.
While one is still trying to control their condition, it is imperative to take certain precautions. An epileptic person should avoid all activities that can potentially put their lives at risk like riding or driving a vehicle, working in factories (like having to operate heavy or open machinery) or heights. Anything that involves swimming, working near an open flame should be done under supervision.
There are also certain triggers that can provoke seizures in people with epilepsy like missing medications, consuming recreational drugs and alcoholic beverages, lack of sleep and other drugs that may interfere with the prescribed medicines.
What to do when someone is having a seizure?
Do not panic: If you witness someone having seizures, it’s important for you to stay calm in order to help someone.
Protect the person from potential injuries: Help keeping them from falling and gently guide them to the floor. Remove any objects or furniture that may injure the person.
Place a pillow under their head: If they are already on the ground, turn them to one side and loosen the clothing around their neck. Place something soft under their head.
Don’t force anything: Do not forcibly open or put anything in mouth (water, spoon, cloth). You may end up hurting them and yourself.
Record everything: Record the event on your device to show it to the doctor. Pay close attention to the body movement during seizure, how long it lasted, how the person reacted after and possible injuries.