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How Epileptic Patients Can Be Cured To Live Normal Life –Neurologists

Neurologists have urged Nigerians living with epilepsy to stop attributing the health condition to witchcraft, noting that the disorder that causes

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Neurologists have urged Nigerians living with epilepsy to stop attributing the health condition to witchcraft, noting that the disorder that causes repeated seizures can be treated with medications.

According to the experts, persons living with epilepsy can also live normal healthy lives when properly treated and need not depend on all sorts of spurious supernatural remedies or prayer houses to prevent seizures.

The experts noted that contrary to popular beliefs, epilepsy is a neurological condition often caused by neurological infections in children and adults.

They also explained that epilepsy in adults could also be caused by brain tumours.

Sharing her experience with epilepsy as a young child, one of the experts, Dr. Ogochukwu Ekete said she had her first episode of epilepsy in primary 4.

She, however, said it was due to the early intervention of her father that she has been able to go on and live a normal life.

According to the physician, despite fears that she may have been bewitched by a relative, her father insisted that she had only a medical condition and promptly took her to see a neurologist who treated her.

Recalling her experience as a little girl with epilepsy, Ekete, now married with kids, explained that she was not aware of anything she did that could have triggered the episodes.

While she cannot recollect the episode, she says she was only able to remember that she developed terrible sores as a result of the spoon forced into her mouth.

According to her, “I had the first episode of seizure as a little girl. Not quite sure of the exact age but I think I was in primary 4 or so.

“Though I couldn’t recollect much during the episode, I could recall the terrible sores in my mouth thereafter as a result of forceful use of a spoon to try to open my mouth.”

She recalled developing epilepsy suddenly as a young child was also traumatic for the family as they tried to track what could have been the cause.

Without the knowledge of what could have caused the young Ekete to develop epilepsy, her grandmother eventually pinned the blame on one of her relatives, accusing him of bewitching the child.

But Ekete says her father differed and insisted that they sought medical intervention to nib the neurological disorder

“My mum was devastated. My grandma came up with this conspiracy theory and assumed that a relative was responsible for the seizures but my dad stood his ground and insisted that it was a medical condition and that the only solution was to visit a doctor,” she said.

More than two decades later, Ekete says she no longer has seizures. This did not come immediately she saw a doctor as she confirmed that from primary 4, she was on medication till her senior secondary school years.

“I am grateful to my dad for the early intervention,” she said. “It was because of my father’s early intervention that I was placed on medications – my dad made sure I was very compliant with them – and I remained on the drugs years after the last episodes.

“As the years passed by, the doses were gradually reduced. I was asked to stop it finally when I was in senior secondary school,” she said.

Ekete advised persons with epilepsy to seek early medical attention while strictly adhering to their medications. She further stressed that they should shun religious superstitions that surround epilepsy.

“I know as Nigerians we are very religious people but things should be put in their proper place. Early detection and treatment can turn around seizures,” the physician said.

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Commenting on epilepsy in children, a professor of neurology, Dr. Ikenna Onwuekwe said that some of the neurological infections that can cause epilepsy in children are meningitis, cysticercosis and encephalitis.

Epilepsy, Onwuekwe said, can also be caused by genetic diseases due to heredity or chromosomal disorders such as Dravet’s syndrome and Down’s syndrome.

He added that some progressive neurodegenerative conditions may manifest in epilepsy at these ages as well. A few cases may follow cerebrovascular disease such as stroke in young adults.

He stated further that illicit drug use and alcohol abuse can also cause epilepsy in young adults, adding that tumours and traumatics also cause this health disorder in many people of this age group.

Speaking with Newsmen, Onwuekwe, who is the head of the neurology unit at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu, also disclosed that epilepsy can occur in children and young, stressing that contrary to strongly held superstitious beliefs, epilepsy can also be triggered by traumatic brain injury following falls, road traffic accidents and other causes of blunt or penetrating head injury.

He, however, clarified that seizures are different from epilepsy saying that the difference between isolated seizures and epilepsy is that isolated seizures can occur from multiple causes and are not repetitive in nature while epilepsy is a tendency to have repeated seizures with at least 2 occurring in the absence of fever.

Onwuekwe stressed that placing persons with epilepsy on medications could be very helpful in getting them to regain control of their lives and resume normal existence while pursuing their destinies.

Also, Dr. Olugbenga Odebode, a professor of Neurosurgery at the College of Health Sciences, University of Ilorin, pointed out that not placing persons with epilepsy on medication means that such persons will go on having seizures.

He posited that the act of putting an iron spoon in the mouth of a person having seizures is unnecessary and not beneficial.

In addition, Onwuekwe said persons with epilepsy, 70 per cent of the time are able to discontinue antiepileptic drug treatment after the mandatory duration depending on the particular country guideline.

Explaining what seizures are, Onwuekwe said “seizures are of brain origin and involve sudden abnormal generations of very high electrical activity by cortical neurons with involvement of certain subcortical structures.

“These unusual electrical signals are responsible for producing the various manifestations depending on the part of the brain affected and the functions of the body controlled by that part of the brain.

“In all cases of epilepsy, neurological consultation is mandatory as they are best managed by neurologists.”

According to the World Health Organisation, epilepsy is the most common chronic brain disease and affects people of all ages.

The global health body noted that more than 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy with nearly 80 per cent of them living in low- and middle-income countries.

“An estimated 70 per cent of people with epilepsy could be seizure-free if properly diagnosed and treated. However, about three-quarters of people with epilepsy in low-income countries do not get the treatment they need, and this rises to 90 per cent in some countries.

“In many such countries, many health professionals do not have the training to recognise, diagnose and treat epilepsy. In most resource-poor countries, anti-seizure medications are not available.

“People with epilepsy and their families frequently suffer from stigma and discrimination. In many parts of the world, the true nature of epilepsy has also long been distorted by myths, fear and mistaken notions about the disorder,” the WHO said.

The UN health agency said that it is working with ministries of health and partners to improve access to treatment for epilepsy globally.

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