Epilepsy is one of the most common chronic neurological disorders affecting one in over 100 people in India.
WHAT IS EPILEPSY?
It is a disorder of the brain characterised by repeated seizures. A seizure is usually defined as a sudden alteration of behaviour due to a temporary change in the electrical functioning of the brain.
Usually, the brain continuously generates tiny electrical impulses in an orderly manner. These impulses travel throughout the body via chemical messengers called neurotransmitters.
In epilepsy, the brain’s electrical rhythm gets imbalanced, resulting in recurrent seizures. It could affect a person’s consciousness, movements or sensations.
EPILEPSY IN WOMEN IN INDIA
While there are around 50 million people in the world who are affected by it, India is grappling with an increasing number of cases, especially because many of them have remained undiagnosed.
Despite medical progress, there is an urgent need for increased awareness regarding early detection and treatment of epileptic seizures, especially in young women.
Doctors have expressed deep concern over the inadequate attention given to women with epilepsy, since this negligence is influenced by cultural beliefs, social stigma, and insufficient healthcare infrastructure.
Dr Siby Gopinath, Epileptologist and Professor of Neurology at Amrita Hospital, Kochi, highlighted the prevalence of epilepsy in India, especially among women.
“Despite its prevalence, there exists a considerable treatment gap in the management of epilepsy, particularly in low-resource settings like rural areas of India. With nearly 1.5 million affected women in India, special attention must be given to women of reproductive age with epilepsy, as pregnancy poses unique challenges,” said Dr Siby Gopinath.
He added that special attention must be given to those of reproductive age, facing unique challenges during pregnancy, including teratogenic effects from antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) and increased infertility rates.
HOW IS EPILEPSY DIAGNOSED IN WOMEN?
Understanding the diverse causes of epilepsy, such as structural changes in the brain and metabolic disturbances, is crucial for effective management.
Neuroinfections, head trauma, and metabolic abnormalities significantly contribute to the burden of epilepsy in India, particularly among women of reproductive age, while children also bear a substantial impact.
Comprehensive neurological examinations and advanced neuroimaging studies can provide accurate diagnosis.
Preventive measures targeting fall and injury prevention, improved perinatal care, and addressing modifiable risk factors play a crucial role in reducing epilepsy burdens among women and children alike.
Dr AK Sahani, Director and Chief of Neurology at the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC) New Delhi, emphasised that women with epilepsy can lead normal lives with timely treatment.
“It is crucial to address the unique challenges faced by women, including social stigma, to ensure they receive the necessary medical attention. Women with epilepsy should plan pregnancy so that anti-epileptic medications do not harm the baby as well as the mother,” said Dr AK Sahani, as quoted by news agency IANS.
Planning pregnancy under neurologist supervision allows for minimising medication doses and switching to safer drugs. This enables women with epilepsy to safely undergo pregnancy and have a normal delivery.
Treatment options include pharmacotherapy, surgical interventions, brain-stimulating therapies, and dietary modifications like ketogenic diets, suggest experts.
(With inputs from news agencies)