Demystifying the social stigma – Epilepsy is a ‘Disease’ and is ‘Curable’

Let us all burn some ignorance and educate the society and fight against the age-old popular belief that–‘epilepsy is not curable’. Ignorance has been prevalent among both literate and illiterate segment of the society that epilepsy is caused by God’s wish or a demon’s negative influence. A strong social stigma further strengthened by the lack of adequate education and awareness has led to the development of such an irrational set of beliefs.

Certain facts will help demystify this belief and shed light to remove the prejudice. At least 70% of epilepsy patients can be cured and drugs can be withdrawn. However, about one-third of patients may require continuation of medication for a longer time and interventions like surgery, neuro stimulations etc. Epilepsy is just another disease, with scientific causes and is very much curable. In a very minor population (5 to 10%), epilepsy could be due to genetic predisposition. But in a large majority of cases, it results from head injury, stroke or diseases like tuberculosis and some infections. In fact, any disease of the brain can lead to epilepsy.

Scientifically, epilepsy can be termed as a neurological disease, which brings some changes in the behaviour of the patient, with or without losing consciousness. Epilepsy is repetitive and there are several forms of it. A common type of epilepsy is a loss of consciousness and shaking of legs and hands which is called atonic epilepsy. And sometimes there is a manifestation of biting tongue and involuntary passage of urine and stool even in the presence of consciousness. This is the commonest of all types. Shaking of one part of the body, either hands or legs and twitching of facial muscles in the presence of consciousness can also be witnessed. It may also happen that patients become transiently unresponsive for a few seconds or minutes and then regain consciousness. Another type is temporary cessation of ongoing activities, for example, a child who is writing, suddenly stops and then re-starts.

Epilepsy is more hyped by social stigma than its actual severity. In our society, if anyone suffers from epilepsy, then without consulting a doctor it is brushed under the carpet. Especially there is suppression of the news if a girl suffers from epilepsy, because of the fear of the immense difficulty in getting her married. Dr. Sitanshu Sekhar Nandi, Consultant Neurologist, CK Birla Group of Hospitals, explains that epilepsy is a proper curable disease just like any other disease and there is nothing to be ashamed of. His key message says, “the doctors and a social worker both have the responsibility to provide adequate education, create awareness and demonstrate the scientific reason behind the illness. There is no real reason to create such a hue and cry and taboo around it.’’

Dr. S. S. Nandi
Dr. S. S. Nandi

Department of Neurosciences