Despite being one of the world’s oldest known medical conditions, public fear and misunderstanding about epilepsy persists and for many people living with the disorder, the misconceptions and discrimination can be more difficult to overcome than the seizures themselves.
National Epilepsy Week seeks to raise awareness and educate the public on epilepsy and the urgent need for improved treatment, better care, and greater investment in research.
Epilepsy is not just one condition, but a group of many different ‘epilepsies’ with one thing in common: a tendency to have seizures that start in the brain.
Epilepsy is usually only diagnosed after a person has had more than one seizure and not all seizures are due to epilepsy. Epilepsy can happen in people of all ages, races and social classes and is most diagnosed in children and in people over 65.
Different epilepsies are due to many different underlying causes. The causes can be complex, and sometimes hard to identify. A person might start having seizures because they have inherited epilepsy from one or both parents, a new change in a person’s genes, a structural change in a person’s brain or changes to the brain from certain conditions.
Epilepsy affects 1 in every 100 people in South Africa and since 2004, SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy) has increased by more than 100% in the country.
More research is needed into the causes of epilepsy, partly because of the feared the stigma associated with it, and other matters, such as Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy [SUDEP] and new treatments for the effects of the disorder.