Epilepsy is a central nervous system disorder that can be defined as uncontrollable and sudden seizures in the body that may include loss of consciousness, rapid and jerky body movements, alteration of senses, etc, all of which the patient may or may not be conscious of. It is the most common serious neurological disorder affecting about 50 million people globally. It is more common in males than in females. It affects an estimated four to 10 per 1,000 people. A vast majority of patients of epilepsy belong to lower or middle income group countries.
The disorder is caused due to irregularity — an absence or a sudden electrical discharge — in the brain that results in neural electrical signals not being in sync. This condition may affect the brain partially (focal seizure) or entirely (generalised seizure). The causes of around half of these epileptic seizures are unknown. However, the factors may be genetic, prenatal or traumatic. The condition is non-contagious and affects one in 10 people around the world population at least once during their lifetime. Children and elderly are at higher risk.
Epilepsy was documented as early as 4000 BC to 2000 BC in various scriptures and record, and was believed to be a supernatural invasion into the human body in a number of cultures, and unfortunately, has been surrounded by prejudices, social stigma and discrimination within the patient and their family ever since and even today.
With the medical advancement and neurology, a new branch of medicine, epilepsy was studied systematically and the condition came to be defined and studied in detail as a brain disorder. In the 1920s, psychiatrist Hans Berge developed EEG (electroencephalogram), popularly called brain waves, which helped to study the condition. In the 1930s, it was even employed for brief study of epilepsy, which revealed electrical discharge and the correlation of seizures of various types.
Consequently, the history of epilepsy is an old one. With medical advancement and discussions, it came to be known as a brain disorder instead of the mysterious phenomenon it was once thought to be. This is largely being discussed and researched, innovation therapies and medications have developed to treat the disorder with better medication. Therapies, along with the education of patient, their family and society has led to a better understanding of the condition and better care systems.
There are total 50 million cases of epilepsy around the world, with an additional five million people being diagnosed every year. The non-contagious disorder is more common among the children and elderly as compared to adults. Children mostly outgrow the condition as they age and grow up without as such medication in most cases.
Epilepsy is usually self-diagnosable and may require medication, and in uncommon cases surgery, treatment. The condition is curable with medication and therapy. The low and middle income group countries are more affected as compared to high income countries. The reason may be endemic diseases that prevail in the former region, including malaria and other diseases. Both internal as well as external factors may contribute to the presence of this disorder, its development and severity.
Unfortunately, epileptic seizures were seen as supernatural or spirit phenomenon in many cultures around the world, and continue to be so in many regions of the world. This ultimately leads to the patients suppressing their need to get diagnosed from a doctor or seeking medical help and treatment because of discrimination, which adds to the issue. They suffer more from the social stigma and discrimination than epilepsy itself.
During the past century, there have been many development, research and medical diagnostic advancements, as well as therapies and medication. There has also been more dialogues and discussions regarding the conditions and its first aid. Awareness programmes, articles and other media have also helped the public to learn about the same and removed social stigma and negligence in our society about epilepsy to a considerable extent.
The World Health Organisation (WHO), along with its partners, has put epilepsy as a priority and health concern globally. The International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE) and International league Against Epilepsy (ILAE) with the WHO are leading the Global Campaign Against Epilepsy to control the disorder and provide better awareness, education and information to the public.
Their contributions are significant to strengthen public and private support to reduce the impact of the disorder. These efforts seeks to achieve the goal in many countries around the world to reduce the treatment gap of epilepsy and provide better opportunities for people to tackle the condition.