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National Epilepsy Day: 7 Common Epilepsy Myths Busted!

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National Epilepsy Day is on November 17, 2018.

Epilepsy is the second most common and frequently encountered neurological condition. As per a 2018 Indian study, 70 million people have epilepsy worldwide and nearly 12 million Indians suffer from the condition. This means that Indians suffering from epilepsy contributes to nearly one-sixth of the global burden which means that it is not a rare disease in India. Epilepsy is considered a curse or an evil thing, and thus, epileptic patients are abandoned and discriminated against. Epilepsy has been a part of social stigma in India because of which people are stuck to superstitious beliefs. So this National Epilepsy Day, let’s steer clear some of the common myths and misconceptions about the condition.

Myth #1: Epilepsy is a curse of God

Fact: Epilepsy is NOT due to being possessed by an evil spirit, nor is it due to any supernatural powers or a curse/wrath of God. In fact, just like diabetes and depression, it is a clinical condition that needs treatment. It is a neurological condition which affects the brain and can lead to epileptic seizures.

Myth #2: Epilepsy is contagious

Fact: You cannot get epilepsy if you come in contact with an epileptic person, so it is NOT a contagious disease. Most people also believe that epilepsy can spread by sharing utensils or by contact of saliva, which is not true. Hence, the next time you spot a person suffering an attack, do not refrain from helping his because of the fear that it can spread by touching the person.

Myth #3: People with epilepsy are mentally ill

Fact: NO, epilepsy is not a mental illness. It is associated with mood problems like anxiety and depression. In a majority of cases, it doesn’t lead to mental health problems. But saying that a person with epilepsy is mad is just wrong.

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Myth 4: Use of an onion or keys can terminate an ongoing epileptic attack.

Fact: The is a big NO. Most people believe that placing a metal key in the hands of a person having an attack or making the person smell onions or dirty socks during an attack can stop the attack. However,  epileptic patients and their families should not fall prey to such irrational beliefs.

Myth 5: During a seizure, you swallow your tongue.

Fact: Bear in mind that the human tongue cannot be swallowed. However, one can bite their tongue leading to an injury or the tongue may roll back leading to an airway obstruction and respiratory distress during a seizure. Hence, if a person is having an attack, you can put a cloth in the mouth and make them lie in the recovery position (sideways) to avoid getting injured.

Myth #6: You should restrain the person having a seizure.

Fact: During an epileptic attack, you should never hold a person down but let the seizure run its course. Moreover, you should not force something in their mouth when having an attack.

Myth #7: People with epilepsy can’t work or lead normal lives.

Fact: Except for children who are born with mental disabilities, people with epilepsy have normal intelligence and functional abilities at par with others. Moreover, they can lead normal lives with proper medication and treatment. It is a misconception that they are dull, cannot have children or fail to excel at school and work.

Epilepsy is no more a serious disorder, but still, in most parts of our country, it is thought to be untreatable. It is unfortunate that we still prefer black magic and other superstitious practices as an easy and acceptable treatment and stay away from medical treatment options. This Epilepsy day, let’s do our bit by sharing this article with everyone we know to educate and spread awareness about the condition.

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)

References:

1. Singh S, Mishra VN, Rai A, Singh R, Chaurasia RN. Myths and Superstition about Epilepsy: A Study from North India. J Neurosci Rural Pract. 2018 Jul-Sep;9(3):359-362.

2. Choi-Kwon S, Kim EK, Youn SM, Choi JM, Lee SK, Chung CK. Common misconceptions in people with epilepsy. J Clin Neurol. 2006 Sep;2(3):186-93.

3. Osungbade KO, Siyanbade SL. Myths, misconceptions, and misunderstandings about epilepsy in a Nigerian rural community: implications for community health interventions. Epilepsy Behav. 2011 Aug;21(4):425-9.

 

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