The World Health Organization (WHO) states there are around 50 million people living with epilepsy globally.
Epilepsy is a chronic non-communicable disease of the brain. It is identified by recurrent seizures which are brief incidents of involuntary movement that may involve a part of the body (partial) or the entire body (generalised). The seizures are sometimes accompanied by loss of consciousness and control of bowel or bladder function.
Epilepsy is due to the cellular shocks occurring in the brain which often leave individuals with a blank stare. According to the WHO, these shocks can be controlled and allow at least 70% of people living with epilepsy to do so seizure free, once properly diagnosed and treated.
Causes of Epilepsy
The causes of epilepsy can be divided into two categories; genetics (biological factors) and acquired (external factors).
- Genetics – This occurs as a result of a brain abnormality being formed during the first stages of development, or from prenatal or perinatal causes, such as a loss of oxygen, trauma during birth or low birth weight.
- Acquired – This occurs as a result of:
- Physical injury to the brain
- Infections to the brain, such as meningitis or encephalitis
- Decreased blood supply/nutrients to the brain
Symptoms will vary depending on the location of the seizure in the brain. However, the most common signs include:
- Temporary loss of awareness or consciousness
- Disturbances of movement, sensation (including vision, hearing and taste), mood, or other cognitive functions
First Aid Tips
- Cushion the individual’s head
- Loosen tie or neckwear (if applicable)
- Turn individual on his or her side so fluids can run out of the mouth
- Do not put any object in the person’s mouth or over the face
- If seizure lasts more than 5 minutes; transport to the nearest hospital
Diagnosis and Treatment
In order to diagnose an individual, an electroencephalogram (EEG) test must be done. The EEG will identify the type and location of a seizure in the brain, and the specific medication needed as there is currently no cure for the disease.
Government of Jamaica (GOJ) Support
- National Health Fund (NHF) Card – this provides discounts on medication for persons with epilepsy. As of October 31, 2020, there were 22,818 epilepsy registrants. Visit link below for a list of the subsidies:
- Epilepsy Clinics – The Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW), through clinics at public hospitals, provides care to adults and children with epilepsy.
- The Kingston Public Hospital – The neurological clinic sees patients on Wednesdays. Individuals with less complicated seizures may also be seen at the other four (4) general medical clinics located at the hospital.
- The University Hospital of the West Indies – The neurological clinic sees adults on Mondays and children on Thursdays; patients are seen by referrals.
- The Bustamante Hospital for Children – The medical clinic sees children on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays by appointment.
- Jamaica Epilepsy Association (JEA) – This organisation promotes awareness of epilepsy through training at schools, clinics and other bodies. It hosts fundraisers and monthly meetings where persons with epilepsy can voice their concerns and gain support from each other. The JEA currently supports 200 members living with the disease.
For further information, contact:
Ministry of Health and Wellness
10-16 Grenada Crescent
Jamaica Epilepsy Association
4 Fagan Avenue
Telephone: (876) 997-4941