Epilepsy cases rise, as Pakistan faces acute shortage of neurologists: Dr Fowzia




Karachi:    Epilepsy cases are on a sharp rise in Pakistan and sadly the country is also facing acute shortage of trained neurologists, especially in state-run hospitals, said Epilepsy Foundation Pakistan President Dr Fowzia Siddiqui, speaking in different seminars and programs here in connection with the World Epilepsy Day.


Dr Fowzia said that epilepsy sounds a dreadful ailment but the real fact is that it is a completely curable disease. She said the shortage of trained doctors and very costly medicines to treat this disease are huge challenges faced by our country.


She said more than 2 million epilepsy patients in Pakistan await government attention as lack of facilities and very costly medicines are still a big hurdle to reduce epilepsy burden from our crumbling healthcare sector. She said that the ratio of epilepsy in the world is between 0.5 to 1 percent, but in Pakistan the ratio of this disease is one percent, which is considered very high. However, with proper treatment this disease could be controlled.


She said that epilepsy is not a sort of some black magic or possession by genies and spirits. This disease is controlled through medication. She said however delay in treatment makes this disease further difficult and its treatment further prolonged. She said epilepsy is a neurological disease and like other diseases its proper treatment is necessary, because it is a treatable ailment. She said with medication this disease is controlled up to 70 percent. This disease in 95percent cases is not hereditary. These are many types of epilepsy whose correct diagnosis is necessary for effective treatment.


Dr Fowzia said during a fit of epilepsy it not beneficial to force the patient to smell a shoe, or slapping him or her on face, or sprinkling water over them and putting a finger in their mouth. The patient in this condition should be laid on one side and it should be tried that no injury is received by him or her. If the fit of epilepsy lasts for more than 3 minutes the patients should be immediately shifted to hospital. If any family has an epilepsy patient they should get complete information about the first aid from their doctors so that emergency situations could be avoided.


She said there are many forms of epilepsy. There is a form called generalized tonic-clonic seizer that involves the entire body. It is also called grand mal seizure. Grand mal seizures have two stages: Tonic phase, with loss of consciousness occurs, and the muscles suddenly contract and cause the person to fall down. This phase tends to last about 10 to 20 seconds, and Clonic phase, in which muscles go into rhythmic contractions, alternately flexing and relaxing. Convulsions usually last one to two minutes or less. Some patients also experience screaming, loss of bowel and bladder control, unresponsiveness after convulsions, confusion, fatigue and severe headache. Other forms of epilepsy are staring spells called absence seizers. There are some other symptoms present in some other epilepsy patients.


She appealed to the government to reduce the prices of epilepsy drugs, which are very costly in Pakistan. There is also a shortage of these drugs in the market. She requested the government to give a subsidy on these drugs. She said the shortage of these drugs and their selling in black market is a huge problem for both patients and doctors. She urged the government to take notice of black-marketing and adulteration of epilepsy drugs. She said that this issue of saving human lives and all stakeholders including the government should play their due role in mitigating the sufferings of the epilepsy patients.


Dr Fowzia said in Pakistan there is a lack of education and no proper treatment facilities available in small towns and villages. Moreover, due to poverty many people avoid costly treatment and instead go to spiritual healers. This is why many epilepsy patients unnecessarily suffer a lot. She said steps are necessary to ensure proper treatment of epilepsy in at least district level government hospitals. She demanded opening special wards for epilepsy patients in major government hospitals.