‘Empathy towards people with epilepsy crucial to overcome problem’

Hyderabad: People with epilepsy can lead a normal life, but it is the attitude of the society towards them that impacts the quality of their life, according to doctors.

With recurrent seizures, people with epilepsy are at risk of frequent injuries, burns and even loss of life. They are stigmatised in the society and discriminated against, while also struggling to establish relationships, get educated and being employed.

However, an empathetic approach towards them will help them they stay strong and lead a normal life.

On the International Epilepsy Day commemorated on February 14, doctors provide answers to certain misnomers.

Healthcare in India has advanced to a great extent and now it is medically possible to evaluate and map the possibility of future seizures and prescribe required solutions. Hence tackling such problems has become easy now.

“Medication is needed to control seizures and treat epilepsy and anti-seizure medications help to control seizures in nearly seven out of every 10 persons with epilepsy. Persons with epilepsy must strictly avoid self-medication and seek right medical advice to ensure that epilepsy is well controlled,” said Dr. Sita Jayalakshmi, Senior Consultant Neurologist at KIMS Hospitals.

On additional causes that result in epilepsy, Dr. Amit Bhatti, Consultant – Neurology, Wockhardt Hospital (Nagpur), observed that even stress could sometimes cause epilepsy among people with weak nervous systems, and more stress could increase severity of the problem.

“It is important to note that stress affects brain development among children, which could have complications in the latter stages of life. In fact, the most common causes of onset seizures are the structural changes that occur to the brain.”

Dr. Abhinay M. Huchche, Consultant Neurologist at SLG Hospitals, said: “Epilepsy can be treated and there is surgery route too. While the all-pervading myth has been that there is no treatment to epilepsy, historically patients have been put to various rustic and non-medical and unproven methods believed to tame epilepsy. This include making the patient hold metal, shaking patients etc. On the positive side, the fact is that epilepsy has inexpensive yet effective medical solutions and around 70 per cent of those treated lead normal lives.”

Commenting on understanding the problem, Dr. Suresh Reddy, Neuro Physician, Aware Gleneagles Global Hospitals, said anyone can develop epilepsy, and it affects both males and females of all races, ethnic backgrounds and ages.

“Seizure symptoms can vary widely from some simply turning blank for a few seconds during a seizure, while others repeatedly twitch their arms or legs. Having a single seizure doesn’t mean you have epilepsy. At least two seizures without a known trigger or unprovoked seizures that happen at least 24 hours apart are generally required for an epilepsy diagnosis.”

According to Dr. Karthik Y, Consultant Neuro Surgeon of Century Hospital, one of the major challenges epilepsy patients encounters is the low confidence levels and the uncertain fear of its occurrence.

“The families of epileptic patients, especially the elders and parents who are dealing with seizures in children, need to understand the disease and know more from doctors.

“Usually it’s important to find the underlying cause of seizures and treat it accordingly. In most of the cases , medical treatment is sufficient. But in few refractory cases, surgical treatment is an emerging victor. Most importantly, it needs to be treated at any cost without ignoring. In fact, epilepsy stands next only to stroke in neuro related deaths,” he said.

Besides conventional treatment epilepsy awareness assumes vital importance as most of the cases become complex only because treatment was never received or began very late in adolescence or adulthood.

The role of doctors cannot be restricted to treatment but transcends to creating awareness and taking message to patients, families and the society in particular.

Many training facilities and physicians need to upgrade themselves with the knowledge and facilities to treat persons with complex epilepsies. Ongoing research and legislations are much needed in guiding the fight against epilepsy.

Doctors say with awareness, most persons with epilepsy who take medical treatment can lead normal lives, remain employed, get married, have children and be productive members of the society.

Also, if attention is paid, a lot of epilepsies can be prevented.

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