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International Epilepsy Day 2023: Step Up Against the stigma

International Epilepsy Day 2023: Step Up Against the stigma

Max Lab

Feb 11, 2023

The human mind is controlled by a chain of nerve cells that communicate with one another through a chain of electrical signals. With epilepsy, communication between these nerve cells becomes scrambled, and that’s what causes epilepsy. Epilepsy is a chronic noncommunicable brain disease that affects people of all ages. According to a report by World Heath Organisation, approximately 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, making it the fourth most common neurological disease globally. Furthermore, according to the study, about 70% of people living with epilepsy can live seizures-free if properly diagnosed and treated. Hence, International Epilepsy Day is observed every year on the second Monday of February to spread awareness about the challenges faced by people living with epilepsy. This year, International Epilepsy Day will be observed on 13 February 2023, focusing on the stigma people living with epilepsy face worldwide.

International Epilepsy Awareness Day is the brainchild of the International League against Epilepsy and the International Bureau for Epilepsy, which works rigorously to spread awareness about the condition to the masses. Almost annually, a theme is chosen to guide the events of the epilepsy awareness day.

What is Epilepsy?

Epilepsy is one of the oldest medical conditions in the world, where brain activity becomes abnormal, which in turn causes seizures. These seizures can last from a few seconds to several minutes, depending on the situation for each individual. The seizures are frequently thought of as convulsions with stiff jerking movements. For some people, a seizure may, in fact, involve going blank or losing consciousness. While others may remain fully awake or experience nausea, hallucinations, blinking, chewing or staring. The condition happens due to genetic disorders or brain injury that may cause abnormal brain behaviour. For most people with epilepsy, medication can reduce the number of seizures, which will work to get the seizures under control over time.

When we talk about epilepsy day and its awareness, the colour purple is associated with epilepsy as it is the colour of official awareness of epilepsy. This is because purple is considered the symbol of the international flower of epilepsy. On International Epilepsy Day or World Purple Day, one can add a splash of purple colour somewhere on their body in terms of attire, accessories or anything else.

What Causes Epilepsy?

One must note that Epilepsy is not a contagious disease but is rather a blanket term covering a wide range of seizure-based disorders. Although many underlying medical conditions can lead to epilepsy, the root cause of the condition is still unknown in about 50% of cases globally, according to WHO. To understand the causes of epilepsy the same is categorised into structural, genetic, infectious, metabolic, immunological and unknown. The causes are explained below:

  • Brain damage from perinatal or prenatal causes
  • Genetic conditions or congenital abnormalities
  • A severe head injury
  • A stroke restricts the amount of oxygen to the brain
  • Brain infections such as encephalitis, meningitis or neurocysticercosis
  • Certain genetic syndromes
  • Brain tumour

People diagnosed with epilepsy are at increased risk of experiencing mild to severe seizures at any time, irrespective of age and gender. Sometimes, the seizure episodes are brought on by triggers, while most seizures occur for no apparent reason.

Symptoms of Epilepsy

One of the most common symptoms of epilepsy is recurrent seizures. Furthermore, symptoms of epilepsy depend on the type of seizure and which part of the brain is involved. A brain abnormality causes epilepsy; hence seizures can affect any process the brain coordinates. Some of the possible symptoms of epilepsy include:

  • Regular and uncontrollable jerking or shaking
  • A convulsion with no fever as such
  • Confused memory or short blackouts
  • Sudden stiffness for no particular reason
  • Sudden bouts of chewing for no apparent reason
  • Psychological symptoms like anxiety, deja vu or fear
  • Feeling of fearfulness
  • Repetitive movements that seem involuntary

It is vital to consult a doctor if the symptoms mentioned repeatedly occur to an individual. In most cases, an individual diagnosed with epilepsy may have the same kind of seizures each time, so the symptoms can be similar from episode to episode.

Treatment of Epilepsy

To treat epilepsy, healthcare professionals generally begin treating epilepsy with medication. If medication doesn’t suffice, doctors may propose surgery or any other type of treatment. Treating epilepsy can help people have fewer seizures or stop having seizures completely. The different types of treatment suggested for treating epilepsy are mentioned below, based on the severity of the condition from person to person.

  • Medicines called AEDs or Anti-Epileptic Drugs
  • Surgery to remove a small part of the brain that is responsible for seizures
  • Vague Nerve Stimulation, Deep Brain Stimulation or Responsive Neurostimulation can help control seizures and monitor the frequency
  • Ketogenic diet to help control seizures

Some people living with epilepsy may need treatment for life. Generally, most people living with epilepsy can lead a full and active life. If one takes plenty of rest and eats a good diet, as well as takes care while driving, swimming or working with heavy machinery can prevent seizures in the long run.

Bottom Line

This World Epilepsy Day, 2023, seeks to dispel all the myths associated with epilepsy by sharing facts about epilepsy. It is important to educate ourselves and people living with epilepsy about the facts of epilepsy, which can help to reduce the stigma faced by people with epilepsy. Let’s ensure that they have access to the same opportunities and rights as everyone else. International Epilepsy Awareness Day works to eradicate the stigma surrounding epilepsy and provide the masses with some helpful information about the condition.

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