Despite 30 million people in India suffering from various forms of neurological diseases, the awareness about epilepsy, the most common neurological disorders, is abysmally low; and people suffering from these often end up being ridiculed and stigmatised. Epilepsy is a disease of the brain characterised by recurrent seizures, which are brief episodes of involuntary movement that may involve a part of the body (partial) or the entire body (generalised). In India, there are about 12 million persons with epilepsy.
Informs Dr RN Sahoo, Neurologist, Retired Professor, SCB Medical College, Cuttack, “Early and accurate identification of types of seizures, epilepsy and any associated conditions can help get the patient the right kind of medication. Education on the disease is crucial pertaining to myths and misconceptions prevalent in most of our communities about the medical nature of epilepsy amongst patients and their families, its characteristics, causes and prognosis.”
Epilepsy patients can lead a normal life, say neurologists, ruing the fact that hundreds of people continue to suffer because of misinformation and are forced to live as social outcasts. Dr SD Nayak, Asst Professor, Neurology, SCB Medical College, says, “ Lack of awareness and social stigma surrounding the disease leads to late treatment, complications and poses an emotional burden for the patient and the family members. Late diagnosis is more common in cases where there is partial epilepsy or where the first seizure is not a major one.
Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which clusters of nerve cells sometimes signals abnormally causing strange sensations, emotions, and behaviour, or sometimes convulsions, muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. It can occur at any age. Epilepsy continues to be plagued by dogma and misconceptions.
This is in spite of concerted awareness campaigns to emphasise the fact that contrary to popular belief, epilepsy is neither contagious, nor associated with witchcraft and people with epilepsy are not mentally ill.