By Faithful Mazodza
Epilepsy is a disorder of the central nervous system, specifically the brain.
In simple terms, our nervous system is a communications network that controls every thought, emotion, impression, memory, and movement, essentially defining who we are.
Nerves throughout the body function like telephone lines, enabling the brain to communicate with every part of the body via electrical signals.
In epilepsy, the brain’s electrical rhythms have a tendency to become imbalanced, resulting in recurrent seizures.
This is the reason why an epileptic patient reports to a neurologist.
A seizure occurs when the brain’s nerve cells misfire and generate a sudden, uncontrolled surge of electrical activity in the brain.
Most people relate to epilepsy as a curse or a misfortune that has befallen the epileptic patient who is sometimes shunned by the community, workmates and family members.
I believe that an epileptic patient is not a psychic-patient.
The fissures those patients go through are because the body sends a lot of messages to their brain. The foam they produce is not contagious as most people believe.
Epileptic patients deserve love and caring people around them. They are not cursed and they need to be accommodated everywhere at work, hospitals and families.
They say that charity begins at home and it is very important for an epileptic patient to get love, care and moral support from their families because most epileptic patients do not have friends.
I learnt that epilepsy is not a disability because there are teachers, accountants and doctors who are epileptic. From my experience I discovered that an epileptic patient can give birth to a normal, brilliant and intelligent child.
As much as anyone needs love and companionship, epileptic patients are equally humans with feelings and emotions.
My concern is on how epileptic patients are treated in schools. Some are quarantined and others are shunned at workplaces even the community at large.
Is there a cure for epilepsy?
There are over a dozen medications currently available for epilepsy treatment. Most patients are given drugs like phenobabitone, carbamazepine and phenytoin and they react to drugs which contain aspirin.
There are a lot of situations that cause epilepsy which include complications at birth, head injuries, seizures with a high fever from childhood and it can also be hereditary.
The various manifestations of epilepsy call for different kinds of treatment.
Epilepsy medications are either called first-generation or second-generation, depending on when they were first discovered and made available.
Some of the first-generation epilepsy drugs were introduced almost 100 years ago around the same time that the modern zipper and the first pop-up toaster were invented.
Epilepsy medications such as topiramate and tiagabine are examples of medications that control seizures by increasing the action of a neurotransmitter called gaba (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain.
By increasing gaba, rapid fire electrical signals that can cause seizures are regulated and slowed down.
Other epilepsy medications like levetiracetam work by binding to a unique protein to help slow down the rapid fire electrical signals that can cause seizures.
By slowing down the electrical signals, levetiracetam is able to better control seizures.
All were revolutionary innovations for their time.
However, epilepsy can be a complicated condition and one needs to learn as much as possible to achieve seizure freedom. People who have this condition are encouraged to as as many questions as possible.
Together with their neurologist or epileptologist, they can make the best decision for their health.
While first-generation antiepileptic drugs are effective, and many people continue to use them, some people find there may be a tradeoff between safety and effectiveness with long-term use of these older drugs.
Until about 15 years ago, people with epilepsy did not have any other options. But now they do.
With the introduction of nine new second-generation antiepileptic drugs, doctors and people with epilepsy have more choices when it comes to epilepsy treatment.
Many epilepsy drugs were often used for treating other disorders before their effectiveness in epilepsy was fully appreciated. Some newer drugs on the market are specifically for epilepsy treatment. Not all antiepilepsy drugs work in the same way.
In fact, a few of these drugs may bind to specific sites in the brain that other epilepsy medications have not been shown to affect.
There is also what is called adjunct therapy or â€œadd-on treatmentâ€ is when one epilepsy treatment or medication is combined with another medication.
Its purpose is to assist the primary treatment in a kind of tag-team approach to epilepsy treatment. Some epilepsy medications are approved by the FDA as adjunct therapy in treating seizures because they are used in combination with another medication.
It is important for an epileptic patient to keep his or her treatment on track.
One way to stick to the treatment plan the patient and the doctor agreed to is to check the prescription every time the patient picks it up at the pharmacy.
Epileptic people are therfore encouraged to use what is referred to as â€œThe Four Csâ€ when visiting the pharmacy, which requires the patient to compare the new pill bottle label with the label on their last prescription; check that the pills look exactly the same (size, shape, color, and imprint) and confirm with the pharmacist (if anything looks different) that he or she is aware of any change and has discussed it with their doctor.
People with epilepsy should not lose heart. Every disease can be managed.
Family and society should also continue to care for such people and encourage them to take their medication and follow the doctor’s orders.