Epilepsy is ubiquitous, but more devastating in the poorer regions of the world... or is it?
Wilmshurst JM., Birbeck GL., Newton CR.
The incidence and prevalence of active epilepsy are greatest in Africa compared to all other continents, even those with equivalent poor settings. This is a reflection of the high levels of structural and metabolic causes and may reflect an increased risk in parts of the continent. The full burden of epilepsy, which includes the social and medical morbidity of the disorder and where people with epilepsy are heavily stigmatized and frequently untreated, cannot be fully assessed even using the disability adjusted life-years, since the assigned disability weights are not specific to these regions. The burden is further exacerbated by social, geographic, and economic barriers to care and the inability of African health systems to manage people with epilepsy effectively because of lack of trained personnel, limited facilities, and poor access to effective or sustained supplies of antiepileptic drugs, or even therapy at all. The situation is compounded by a probable underestimation of the prevalence and incidence of people with epilepsy related to the major stigma associated with the condition in Africa, and the limited training available to most health care workers who are the primary point of assessing most people with epilepsy. Finding innovative ways to address the huge barriers faced by people with epilepsy in Africa needs to be a major goal for the millennium. A PowerPoint slide summarizing this article is available for download in the Supporting Information section here.