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Epilepsy is a neurological disorder, not a mental disorder: Doctors

IANS Nov 20, 2023

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder, and not a mental disorder, said doctors dispelling misconceptions.

Epilepsy presents with a myriad of symptoms. Loss of consciousness, jerking of hands and legs, falls, and frothing from the mouth, and loss of bowel and bladder control are the classical symptoms.

Notably, seizures can vary, with some manifesting as a sudden interruption in speech and a vacant stare, rapid blinking of the eyes, and confusion, unexplained fear, visual hallucinations, underlining the multifaceted nature of epilepsy.

However, it is not a mental disorder, but “neurological”, Dr. Siby Gopinath, Epileptologist and Professor of Neurology, Kochi.

“Epilepsy can develop at any age, and seizures can manifest in various forms. Contrary to beliefs, epilepsy does not always involve convulsive movements and does not necessarily affect intellectual capacity,” Gopinath said.

“Epilepsy, majorly characterised by recurrent seizures, is often a symptom of an underlying neurological issue. One such connection lies with brain tumours, abnormal growths of tissue in the brain,” added Dr Aditya Gupta, Director – Cyberknife.

Studies indicate that individuals with brain tumours are more susceptible to epilepsy, and seizures can serve as an early warning sign of an undiagnosed tumour. The intricate relationship between these two conditions necessitates a comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment.

Other factors that contribute to the risk of epilepsy at a younger age, include premature birth, low birth weight, low oxygen or blood glucose levels at birth, structural malformations in the brain etc.

Additional risk factors involve infections like meningitis, cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities, autism, and a family history of epilepsy. Conditions like stroke and late-stage dementia can cause epilepsy in old age.

"Epilepsy is one of the common neurological disorders, and in India itself, we have more than 1,00,00,000 patients affected with epilepsy. India faces a profound treatment gap, leaving 22 per cent untreated in urban areas and a staggering 90 per cent in rural regions. However, the gravity of the situation extends beyond numbers,” Gopinath said.

Management of epilepsy predominantly relies on anti-seizure medications, with positive responses observed in 70-75 per cent of patients. For some, cyberknife radiosurgery can also be an option.

Gupta stressed the importance of raising awareness as the first step to effective management.

"Despite the evident links between epilepsy and other brain conditions, public awareness often remains limited. Advocacy and education are crucial to empower individuals with knowledge about these connections, enabling early detection and intervention. Community outreach programmes, informational campaigns, and collaboration between healthcare professionals and advocacy groups can play a pivotal role in disseminating this vital information,” he noted.

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