1.52M people suffer from Epilepsy in Pakistan

KARACHI: Epilepsy is treatable, the problem is ignorance not Epilepsy, said Dr Fowzia Siddiqui a consultant neurologist and epileptologist at Agha Khan University while addressing a press conference at Karachi Press club on the occasion of International epilepsy Day.

She said 26th March has been celebrated as the International Epilepsy Day throughout the world. It has now been dubbed the purple day.

This day calls for awareness of one of the most common chronic neurological disorders. On the 26th along with Pakistan Society of Neurology and Epilepsy foundation Pakistan we have arranged walks and awareness programs throughout Pakistan.

Dr Fowzia Siddiqui said that Epilepsy is a debilitating neurological disease that has numerous myths surrounding it and awareness is much needed. It can consist of simple staring spells to severe jerking and stiffening of the body with sudden loss of consciousness.

Overall prevalence of epilepsy is estimated to be 1% in the world population and nears the 2% range in Pakistan. Highest prevalence is seen in people younger than 30 years of age. Higher in the rural areas. But the glaring statistics which needs mass public awareness is that only 27.5% epileptic persons in urban areas and 2.9% in the rural areas even consider it a disease and go to a doctor to be treated. The burden of epilepsy is not fully evaluated and understood.

There is an urgent need to let our nation know that there are treatments available and the ministry of health needs to participate in awareness and treatment campaigns providing medications to control the fits.

Epilepsy is a common medical problem in Pakistan, more prevalent is rural population. Based on the available data, it is estimated that 1.5 -2 million people are suffering from epilepsy in Pakistan. The majority of people with epilepsy are treated inadequately or inappropriately there is a shortage of neurologists which makes it even tougher one neurologist available for every 48,200 patients of epilepsy, and very rare access to any one trained in epilepsy.

Epilepsy carries a horrendous stigma, young women can’t get married, and children are withdrawn from school, resulting in social isolation and depression. Yet this is a treatable disease with complete control in 70% of the patients. Dr. Fowzia urged the media to create awareness of this disease to improve quality of life. Epilepsy is not the problem ignorance is she said.

Professor Dr. Muhammad Wasay of Agha Khan University and PSN said the crusade for this year is to make people aware of the disease and get them to see medical doctors, just fainting or jerking and frothing in the mouth is not epilepsy. There are more than 100 types of fits that the patient can have. Professor Dr. Shaukat Ali of JPMC again urged the media to spread the message that Epilepsy is treatable. Dr Naila Shahbaz Ass Prof of neurology civil hospital Karachi said epilepsy is a debilitating disease which scares the affected families. Patients need medications that sometimes have to be taken lifelong and this can become unaffordable, the government needs to pitch in with subsidized rates and spreading information about the disease.

The conference was also attended by epilepsy patients who are undergoing treatment

Adam a child with Epilepsy said you can overcome anything if the will exists just take your medication on time. Mr. Sharfuddin said he suffered from epilepsy and was scared to come out now after treatment he is well and running his own business.

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