Epilepsy affects 10 million people in India with a prevalence of about 1% of the population. There are numerous myths about epilepsy, such as the belief that it is incurable (it is treatable), that people having an epileptic episode are possessed and so on.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Santosh Sontakke, Consultant Neurologist at Ruby Hall Clinic in Pune, explained, “Epilepsy is characterised by a tendency to get recurrent seizures, which are basically loss-of-consciousness episodes. A seizure is characterised by sudden loss of consciousness or awareness, with jerky movements, stiff limbs, staring, sudden falls, abnormal movements of lips and fingers, and sometimes even involuntary urination and tongue-biting.”
He elaborated, “If these symptoms occur to someone, then they should immediately consult a neurologist. Epilepsy patients can live a normal life with regular follow-up visits with neurologist. Turning the patient to one side in a comfortable space is first aid, whereas putting keys in the patient’s mouth or attempting to open their locked jaw, are not. Epileptic patients should not be in situations where there is possibility of injuries because of loss of consciousness due to seizures. So, driving, swimming and trekking are not allowed.”
However, he added, “Epilepsy is a treatable disorder, so all patients should get a neurologist’s consultation. Home remedies and superstitions like epileptic patients should be beaten or tortured (due to them being misconstrued as being possessed) should be strongly discouraged.”
Dr Manish Chhabria, Consultant Neurologist at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, revealed, “A seizure is a single occurrence or episode of abnormal disorganised electrical discharge in brain, whereas epilepsy is a chronic neurological condition or syndrome characterised by two or more unprovoked seizures & may cause repeated seizures in life time. Our brain comprises billions of neurons – nerve cells that process and transmit information by interacting with each other.”
He pointed out, “Depending on the severity and location in the brain, a seizure could comprise of muscle twitches/spasms, changes in sensation, mood, behavior or thought or altered consciousness. When entire brain is involved it is produces generalised seizure and when one part is involved it produces focal seizure. It is important to treat the underlying cause of individual seizures and to know when to differentiate between a standalone seizure and epilepsy.”