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            The Aga Khan University Hospital Pakistan

Epilepsy in Pakistan: Raising Awareness and Fostering Support

<p></p><p>Every year, World Epilepsy Day is commemorated on the second Monday in February to raise awareness of this neurological condition that impacts millions. This day serves as an occasion to increase awareness and education about the disease, reduce stigma, and encourage support for those living with epilepsy. </p><p>Epilepsy, often known as seizure disorder, is a chronic condition characterised by recurrent seizures—abrupt, uncontrollable electrical disruptions in the brain. These seizures affect people of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life, varying significantly in nature, intensity, and frequency. Although the exact cause of epilepsy is often unknown, it can be triggered by infections, developmental abnormalities, brain trauma, or genetic factors.</p><p>The persistent stigma associated with epilepsy poses one of the most serious challenges for people in Pakistan. Misconceptions and fear often lead to discrimination, social marginalisation, and barriers to education and employment. Many people with epilepsy express feelings of being misunderstood or humiliated, which makes them reluctant to seek treatment or disclose their illness to others. </p><p>However, through knowledge and instruction, we can dispel these misconceptions and create a more accepting and supportive community for people with epilepsy. Here are some important points to think about:
</p><ol><li><strong>​Understanding Seizures</strong>: Seizures can manifest in various forms, such as convulsions, staring spells, or temporary loss of awareness. It&#39;s essential to recognize that seizures are not indicative of mental illness or intellectual disability. They are symptoms of abnormal brain activity and can often be managed with appropriate medical treatment.
</li><li><strong>Dispelling Myths</strong>: Education is crucial in dispelling myths and misconceptions about epilepsy. Contrary to popular belief, epilepsy is not contagious, and people with epilepsy are not necessarily limited in their abilities or intelligence. With proper management and support, many people with epilepsy lead full, productive lives.</li><li><strong>Seeking Support</strong>: Individuals with epilepsy often benefit from a strong support network, including healthcare professionals, family, friends, and support groups. By fostering understanding and empathy, we can create a more inclusive environment where those affected by epilepsy feel supported and empowered.</li><li><strong>Promoting Seizure First Aid</strong>: Knowing how to respond to someone having a seizure is essential for everyone. Simple actions like staying calm, ensuring their safety, and gently guiding them to a comfortable position can make a significant difference. Education and awareness programs can teach seizure first aid techniques to the general public, empowering them to assist effectively when needed.
</li><li><strong>Advocating for Accessible Healthcare</strong>: Access to quality healthcare services, including medication, diagnostic tests, and specialised care, is vital for individuals with epilepsy. Advocating for affordable and accessible healthcare ensures that everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status, can receive the support and treatment they need.
</li></ol><p>By increasing awareness and fostering education, we can dispel myths and create a more inclusive and supportive atmosphere for Pakistan&#39;s epilepsy patients. Here are some important steps we can take to raise awareness about epilepsy:​
</p><ol><li><strong>Education and Awareness Campaigns</strong>: Launching educational campaigns to dispel myths and misconceptions about epilepsy is crucial. These campaigns should target communities, schools, and healthcare providers to increase understanding and empathy towards people with epilepsy.</li><li><strong>Community Support Networks</strong>: Establishing support networks and advocacy groups for people with epilepsy and their families can provide a sense of belonging and solidarity. These networks can offer emotional support, share resources, and advocate for better healthcare services and policies.</li><li><strong>Healthcare Access and Treatment</strong>: Improving access to healthcare services and epilepsy treatment is essential. This includes ensuring the availability of antiepileptic medications, diagnostic facilities, and specialised care for individuals with epilepsy, especially in rural and underserved areas.</li><li><strong>Training in Seizure First Aid</strong>: Providing training in seizure first aid to the general public, including teachers, caregivers, and community leaders, can empower them to respond effectively in case of a seizure. Simple actions like staying calm, protecting the person from injury, and timing the seizure duration can make a significant difference.</li><li><strong>Legal Protection and Rights</strong>: Advocating for legal protection and rights for individuals with epilepsy is crucial in combating discrimination and promoting inclusion. This includes advocating for anti-discrimination laws, ensuring equal opportunities in education and employment, and protecting the rights of individuals with epilepsy to access healthcare and social services without fear of stigma or discrimination.</li></ol><p>On World Epilepsy Day, let us join together as a community to raise awareness, combat stigma, and promote understanding and support for Pakistan&#39;s epileptic patients. By working together, we can tear down barriers, empower people with epilepsy to live full and meaningful lives, and create a more inclusive society where everyone is recognised and respected, regardless of their neurological condition.
 </p><p><em>Author: Dr Prem Chand, Paediatric Neurologist, Section Head Neurology, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Aga Khan University Hospital.</em>


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