3m epilepsy patients in Nigeria, others lack basic treatment – WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that about three quarter of people with epilepsy living in low- and middle- income countries including Nigeria do not get the treatment they need.
In a release, published by the organization on February 13, WHO said that in many parts of the world, people with epilepsy and their families suffer from stigma and discrimination.
Approximately, 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, making it one of the most common neurological diseases globally.
Angela Asemota, president of Angie epilepsy Foundation, at an event to raise awareness on treatment options for epilepsy recently, stated that over four million persons are estimated to be suffering from epilepsy disorder in Nigeria.
Epilepsy is a chronic disorder of the brain that affects people worldwide. It is characterized by recurrent seizures, which are brief episodes of involuntary movement that may involve a part of the body (partial) or the entire body (generalized), and is sometimes accompanied by loss of consciousness and control of bowel or bladder function.
Epilepsy is a chronic non-communicable disorder of the brain that affects people of all ages, epilepsy patients and their families in Nigeria and other developing nations are believed to be suffering from stigma and discrimination.
Sanya Emmmanuel, associate professor and head of department of medicine University of Ilorin, consultant neurology university of Ilorin Teaching hospital said “there are several causes of epilepsy which are age related but leading ones in Nigeria include, infection and infestations of brain and nervous system, like pig tape worm, cysticercoids, birth trauma, post-meningitis and encephalitis, road traffic injury to brain, congenital brain diseases, post stroke and dementia.
“Nearly 80% of the people with epilepsy live in low- and middle-income countries and that people with epilepsy respond to treatment approximately 70% of the time,” says WHO.
“Epilepsy affects both male and female, though there is slight but insignificant male preponderance and other factors that hinder epilepsy treatment in Nigeria”.
“The widespread poverty which limit power to buy drugs by patients and relatives, poor health facilities in rural areas, inadequate number of properly trained doctors with interest in epilepsy care, high level illiteracy which make people unaware of the disease and need to seek treatment social and political disarray resulting in health system instability”, said Emmanuel.
The organization says that epilepsy can be treated easily and affordably with inexpensive daily medication that costs as little as US$ 5 per year.
“Recent studies in both low- and middle-income countries have shown that up to 70% of children and adults with epilepsy can be successfully treated (i.e. their seizures completely controlled) with anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs).
“Furthermore, after 2 to 5 years of successful treatment and being seizure-free, drugs can be withdrawn in about 70% of children and 60% of adults without subsequent relapse.
“In low- and middle-income countries, about three quarter of people with epilepsy may not receive the treatment they need. This is called the “treatment gap”.
Asemota advised parents having such children and wards that they should not give up hope.
“Early detection and treatment with the right diagnosis and medication, couple with the right dosage, positive attitude, exercise and eating right, epilepsy disorder can be cured and the patient can live a normal life.”
According to WHO, the most common type of epilepsy which affects 6 out of 10 people with the disorder, called idiopathic epilepsy has no identifiable cause.
Epilepsy with a known cause is called secondary epilepsy, or symptomatic epilepsy. The causes of secondary (or symptomatic) epilepsy could be: brain damage from prenatal or perinatal injuries (e.g. a loss of oxygen or trauma during birth, low birth weight) and congenital abnormalities or genetic conditions with associated brain malformations.
Other causes could include a severe head injury, a stroke that restricts the amount of oxygen to the brain, an infection of the brain such as meningitis, encephalitis, neurocysticercosis, certain genetic syndromes and a brain tumour.
While Idiopathic epilepsy is not preventable, WHO encourages preventive measures to be applied to the known causes of secondary epilepsy.
These measures include preventing head injury; adequate perinatal care can reduce new cases of epilepsy caused by birth injury and the use of drugs and other methods to lower the body temperature of a feverish child can reduce the chance of febrile seizures.
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