New Delhi: In what comes as a worrying fact on the World Epilepsy day, around 10 million Indians suffer from the disorder, which is characterised by multiple seizures.
India adds five lakh new cases of epilepsy in children every year. As many as 30 per cent of these children, like Kanika Singhal, do not respond well to medication, that is meant to control the seizures that characterise this disorder.
"At (the age of) four, shaking started in the legs, spread to the whole body. It used to happen at regular intervals," said Sanjay Singhal, Kanika's father.
Three years after running pillar to post, her parents brought her to AIIMS, where doctors suggested a rare form of surgery that would switch off a part of her brain.
According to Dr Manjari Tripathi, the surgery called hemispherectomy is effective for 20 per cent of epileptic patients who do not get better with medical therapy.
"What the surgery does is that it disconnects the harmful part of the brain from the rest of the brain. Rest of the brain takes over the function of this part," said Dr Tripathi.
Once disconnected, these parts of the brain stop functioning, so the seizures stop as well. There are side effects like weakness in the hand. However, Dr Tripathi says in cases like Kanika's, the benefits outweigh the risks. She also clarifies that it is not meant for all those who suffer from epilepsy.
"It should not be done for epilepsies which come from a very small part of the brain. It should be done only on larger parts," she said.
Kanika has not had a seizure since the surgery.
With more 10 million Indians who suffer from epilepsy, the crucial thing is to not lose time. The sooner treatment begins, the better.
In fact, epilepsy is treatable in most cases, but in India, 70 to 90 per cent of patients go without treatment in rural, and under-served areas. Doctors say it's time we have a national programme for epilepsy.