Abu Dhabi: Over the past decades, the Persian Gulf region has seen an alarming increase in the number of epilepsy cases, especially among children.
Globally, more than 250 million people are living with this disease. Unfortunately, the majority of nations outside the group of developed countries or the so-called “first world” do not devote enough resources to eradicate this disease or to seek effective treatments.
Advanced scientific diagnosis and specialized medical personnel for research in therapeutic institutions are required to study epileptic patients. Professor Dr Christian E. Elger, German specialist in neurology and senior professor of pediatric neuropediatrics / pediatric epileptology (Charite Berlin) and visiting professor at the university hospital shares with Gulf News the causes of the spread of epilepsy in this area and the ways to detect, diagnose and treat the disease.
GULF NEWS: What are the most common symptoms of epilepsy? When do these symptoms first appear and what types of conditions can cause epileptic seizures?
DR CHRISTIAN E. ELGER: Epilepsy is not a disease in the strict sense, but a large group of diseases characterized by repeated epileptic seizures.
There are many causes of epilepsy. They range from genetic changes, brain deformities, damage from lack of oxygen at birth, acquired conditions such as scarring of the hippocampus (Ammon’s horn sclerosis) to tumors, vascular deformities and other diseases. such as tuberous sclerosis. It is therefore a group of diseases defined by symptoms (convulsions) which have many causes.
Seizures can occur frequently at an early age and also beyond the age of 60. However, it is this latter group that is most frequently affected by this condition. The lowest risk is between 16 and 60 years old. In childhood, congenital changes and genetic abnormalities can lead to the onset of epilepsy, while in old age it is vascular damage to the central nervous system and other associated degradations (development of dementia) and the likes that can lead to this condition.
QUESTION: Although epilepsy is considered rare in young children, its prevalence appears to be high in the Persian Gulf. What could be the reason behind this? Do you think that environmental pollution or poor nutrition can contribute to it? Or is it entirely genetic?
Epilepsy, when considered a disease, is one of the most common neurological diseases. And childhood crises are extremely common. In the Arab world, people like to get married within a family. This can lead to a buildup of genetic defects, which often trigger epilepsies. Environmental factors and poor nutrition play no role.
QUESTION: What advice would you like to give parents if their children develop epileptic seizures? What preventive measures can we adopt?
When a child is diagnosed with a seizure, a full diagnosis should be made. Acute inflammation may already be present or develop. Epilepsy can be determined by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and, if necessary, by genetic testing. Only then can a specific therapy be planned. In childhood, a “diagnosis of syndrome” is important. This means that the form of epilepsy is determined by examinations, which are then treated accordingly. Neuropediatric expertise should be obtained at an early stage for this purpose.
QUESTION: What role does early diagnosis and treatment play in the treatment of this disease in children?
Early diagnosis and treatment are absolutely important. Especially in severely affected patients, early treatment can prevent the patient’s brain performance from becoming limited or more severely impaired.
QUESTION: There are certain types of drugs for the treatment of epilepsy. Can any type of epilepsy be treated with surgery?
There are a variety of drugs available for the treatment of epilepsy. However, these are not “epilepsy” drugs per se, but seizure drugs. They do not cure epilepsy, but treat the cause that leads to epilepsy and thus control the seizures. It all depends on the correct diagnosis.
The surgical treatment of epilepsy is based on the idea that in a small proportion of patients with epilepsy, a narrowly defined brain change is responsible, which can also be eliminated by surgery or laser ablation, without the patient subsequently showing a deficit. neurological. About 5 to 10 percent of all patients with epilepsy require surgery.
QUESTION: As a doctor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy, which treatments do you prefer and why?
Treating epilepsy – whether through medication, surgery, or a special (keto) diet – is a personalized approach. There is no procedure or therapy that can be prescribed for all patients.