Saturday, November 15, 2008

Suffering from seizures doesn't deprive you of having a good life

Did you know what Socrates, Joan of Arc, Alexander the Great, Charles Dickens, Sir Isaac Newton -- apart from being famous characters and good in their career -- had in common? They were afflicted with epilepsy, yet they were highly successful people.

To create awareness and remove misconceptions of this disorder, National Epilepsy Day will be observed on November 17. The society is known to discriminate against epileptics and the stigma attached to the disorder makes it hard for patients to mingle with healthy people. There are myths and assumptions that epilepsy is a mental illness, epileptics can't lead normal lives or epilepsy is incurable.

But the truth is epilepsy is curable and epileptics -- now normal persons after getting treatment -- can enjoy life. Many epileptics are denied employment, admissions to educational institutes and even marriage. The law, however, states that persons suffering from epilepsy can lead a legally married life.

What causes epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder due to sudden burst of abnormal electrical discharges from the brain. Not every person who has a seizure (convulsions) is said to have epilepsy. A ratio of 1:20 has at least one seizure in their lifetime. Fortunately, doctors say only 1 in 200 develop epilepsy. Despite great strides in medical research, a definite cause for epilepsy is yet to be discovered.

In some cases, epilepsy is inherited to 2-4% and a majority of people are unaffected by hereditary factor. Actual seizures and incidence of developing epilepsy is more before one reaches 20 years and after one is 60 years old.

According to vice-president of Indian Epilepsy Association (Bangalore chapter), GT Subhash, anti-epileptic drugs are available and neuro epidemiological studies says seizures can be controlled in 75-80% patients. With the rest 20%, surgical treatment can be considered. "Persons with epilepsy can marry, plus epilepsy and pregnancy can go together in more than 90% patients." In case of employment, epileptics should avoid jobs -- construction works, engineering that involves direct contact with machines, electrical works, etc -- where seizures may result in injury.

Other well-paying and respectable jobs such as desk positions and assembly line tasks are suited for epileptics. How the world copes with epilepsy Globally, there are certain issues that need attention. In the US, UK and Australia, a driving licence is issued to an epileptic if the person has not suffered from seizure for one or two years.

Also, the person can obtain the licence while under medication (anti-epileptic drugs). The Indian Epilepsy Association has petitioned the government to amend the Motor Vehicles Act so that epileptics can obtain driving licences as in other countries. The government is yet to respond to the petition.


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