Epilepsy, a serious disorder of the brain, has social stigma as well as myths attached to it. These baseless apprehensions stem from the widespread ignorance about it. As per the estimates, 1 out of every 100-200 persons in India, suffers from epilepsy. The truth is that epilepsy can be treated, and patients of epilepsy can lead absolutely normal, healthy lives.
Epileptic ‘fits’ or ‘seizures’ occur as a result of an occasional, sudden, excessive electrical discharge from cells in the brain. It is like an ‘electrical short-circuiting’ in the brain cells. All patients with epilepsy have fits or seizures but not every patient who has suffered a fit can be declared an epilepsy patient. To be diagnosed of epilepsy, a patient must have suffered at least two unprovoked fits.
With increasing modernisation and motorisation, there is a rising trend for secondary seizures or post-traumatic seizures (PTSs) resulting from road traffic injuries, falls, violence, and industrial accidents. It is estimated that 11 per cent of individuals with traumatic brain injuries continued to have PTSs, one year after injury. Majority of PTSs were reported to have occurred in age groups of 5-44 years, because of the vulnerability of these age groups to injuries.
Q. How many people in India suffer from epilepsy? What are the triggers?
Of the 70 million persons with epilepsy worldwide, nearly 12 million are expected to reside in India; which contributes to nearly one-sixth of the global burden. Twelve out of every 1000 people in India have been diagnosed with epilepsy and this increases by six per every 10,000 Indians each year.
Some common causes of epilepsy in children are complications related to child birth, infections of the brain, metabolic diseases, any structural disease of the brain, head trauma and certain hereditary diseases. In adults, structural brain disease, trauma, infections, toxins, etc. are often the cause.
Q. How can epilepsy be treated?
Epilepsy can be managed effectively by simple inexpensive medication, and 60-70 per cent of these people lead normal lives. About 10-15 per cent patients can benefit with more than one drug and some new anti-epileptic drugs. However, proper understanding of the causes and risk factors of epilepsy are essential for effective management of epilepsy in India, where majority of patients are still untreated or inadequately treated. If seizures are difficult to control with medication they are referred to as refractory or intractable seizures.
Infections of nervous system are a leading cause of intractable epilepsy in India. It is essential to identify patients who are at risk of developing refractory epilepsy early in their clinical course. This helps to evaluate the possibility of surgical treatment, as this would also minimize the toxicity from overdose of antiepileptic drugs and polytherapy.
Q. Does too much of stress lead to epileptic strokes?
Epilepsy is usually not caused by mental stress. However, it is well known that mental stress can certainly make fits worse or even trigger seizures in patients, who are known to have epilepsy, even while on treatment.
— Dr Sita Jaya Lakshmi, Sr Consultant Neurologist
The following tips can help older adults avoid falls around the house:
Install handrails in bathrooms
Put a nonslip mat in the bathtub or shower
Improve lighting inside the house
Keep stairs and floors clutter free