Epilepsy most common chronic brain disorder globally

KARACHI: Epilepsy is the most common chronic brain disorder globally and affects people of all ages. More than 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy and 80% of them live in developing countries.

According to a WHO report, with treatment, an estimated 70% of people with epilepsy can be seizure free, yet about three fourths of people in developing countries do not get the treatment they need. Furthermore, people with epilepsy and their families frequently suffer from stigma and discrimination.

WHO is working with partners and stakeholders to improve access to epilepsy care. pilepsy is a chronic disorder of the brain that affects people in every country of the world. It is characterized by recurrent seizures. Seizures are brief episodes of involuntary shaking which may involve a part of the body (partial) or the entire body (generalized) and sometimes accompanied by loss of consciousness and control of bowel or bladder function. The episodes are a result of excessive electrical discharges in a group of brain cells. Different parts of the brain can be the site of such discharges. Seizures can vary from the briefest lapses of attention or muscle jerks, to severe and prolonged convulsions. Seizures can also vary in frequency, from less than one per year to several per day.

One seizure does not signal epilepsy (up to 10% of people worldwide have one seizure during their lifetimes). Epilepsy is defined by two or more unprovoked seizures. Epilepsy is one of the world’s oldest recognized conditions. Fear, misunderstanding, discrimination and social stigma have surrounded epilepsy for centuries. Some of the stigma continues today in many countries and can impact the quality of life for people with the disorder and their families.

Characteristics of seizures vary and depend on where in the brain the disturbance first starts, and how far it spreads. Temporary symptoms can occur, such as loss of awareness or consciousness, and disturbances of movement, sensation (including vision, hearing and taste), mood or mental function.

People with seizures tend to have more physical problems (such as fractures and bruising), as well as higher rates of other diseases or psychosocial issues and conditions like anxiety and depression. The estimated proportion of the general population with active epilepsy (i.e. continuing seizures or the need for treatment) at a given time is between 4 to 10 per 1000 people. However, some studies in developing countries suggest that the proportion is between 6 to 10 per 1000. Around 50 million people in the world have epilepsy.

In developed countries, annual new cases are between 40 to 70 per 100 000 people in the general population. In developing countries, this figure is often close to twice as high due to the higher risk of experiencing conditions that can lead to permanent brain damage. Close to 80% of epilepsy cases worldwide are found in developing regions. The risk of premature death in people with epilepsy is two to three times higher than it is for the general population. The most common type – for six out of ten people with the disorder – is called idiopathic epilepsy and has no identifiable cause. In many cases, there is an underlying genetic basis.

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