Published on: 13 February 2024 Category: Media Statement

The North West MEC for Health Madoda Sambatha has called on communities and workplace environments to provide more support for people living with epilepsy. The MEC was speaking on the first day of the National Epilepsy week which runs from 13-20 February 2024. The National Epilepsy Week campaign aims to raise awareness about epilepsy, dispel misconceptions, and advocate for the rights and well-being of people living with epilepsy. The campaign further serves as a platform for individuals to share their experiences with epilepsy and promote understanding about this neurological condition.

“Public fear and misunderstanding about epilepsy persists, making many people reluctant to talk about it. That reluctance leads to lives lived in the shadows, lack of understanding about individual risk, discrimination in workplaces and communities. People with epilepsy die prematurely at a higher rate compared to the general population,” MEC Sambatha pointed out.

He indicated the campaign’s role in challenging superstitions and eliminating discrimination to foster understanding about the neurological condition. “Despite affecting people worldwide, epilepsy still carries stigma. What the National Epilepsy Week seeks to achieve is to eliminate misconceptions, encourage open dialogue, and create a supportive community for people living with this neurological ailment,” MEC Sambatha said.

Key facts about epilepsy Epilepsy is a chronic non-communicable disease of the brain that affects around fifty (50) million people worldwide. It is characterized by recurrent seizures, which are brief episodes of involuntary movement that may involve a part of the body (partial) or the entire body (generalized) and are sometimes accompanied by loss of consciousness and control of bowel or bladder function.

Characteristics of seizures vary and depend on where in the brain the disturbance first starts, and how far it spreads. Temporary symptoms occur, such as loss of awareness or consciousness, and disturbances of movement, sensation (including vision, hearing and taste), mood, or other cognitive functions. People with epilepsy tend to have more physical problems such as fractures and bruising from injuries related to seizures, as well as higher rates of psychological conditions, including anxiety and depression. Causes Epilepsy is not contagious. Although many underlying disease mechanisms can lead to epilepsy, the cause of the disease is still unknown in about 50% of cases globally. The causes of epilepsy are divided into the following categories: structural, genetic, infectious, metabolic, immune and unknown. Examples include:

• Brain damage from prenatal or perinatal causes (e.g. a loss of oxygen or trauma during birth, low birth weight);

• Congenital abnormalities or genetic conditions with associated brain malformations;

• A severe head injury;

• A stroke that restricts the amount of oxygen to the brain;

• An infection of the brain such as meningitis, encephalitis or neurocysticercosis,

• Certain genetic syndromes; and a brain tumour.

Treatment Seizures can be controlled. Up to 70% of people living with epilepsy could become seizure free with appropriate use of antiseizure medicines. Discontinuing antiseizure medicine can be considered after 2 years without seizures and should take into account relevant clinical, social and personal factors.

-ENDS- Enquiries: Tebogo Lekgethwane Departmental Spokesperson 0674227763


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