x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Summer lull poses risks for epileptic

Sitting too long in front of flickering computer and TV screens could trigger fits, doctors warn.

The ambulance service in Abu Dhabi dealt with five cases involving children with epilepsy last year.
The ambulance service in Abu Dhabi dealt with five cases involving children with epilepsy last year.

ABU DHABI // Too much time sitting in front of television or computer screens during the summer months can be dangerous for children with epilepsy, a leading health expert has warned. Dr Zeikah al Jayoussi, a consultant paediatrician at Dr Sulaiman al Habib Medical Group in Dubai Healthcare City, stressed the importance of keeping a close eye on youngsters prone to epileptic seizures during the long summer holiday.

"It is more common in summer because kids are watching TV and sitting in front of the computer all day long," Dr Jayoussi said. The flickering artificial light could trigger epileptic fits, and children with epilepsy should not be left alone for long periods in front of screens, she explained. The ambulance service in Abu Dhabi recently revealed that last year it dealt with five cases involving children suffering from epilepsy.

The disease is still viewed as carrying a certain stigma in the UAE and Dr Jayoussi said parents were often embarrassed to admit their child suffered from it. "People are shy about saying their children have epilepsy," she said. "They will bring them to the clinic, but they won't mention it." However, she emphasised the importance of treatment, stressing that it was more embarrassing for a child to fall down with convulsions while in school than for the parents to tell people he or she had epilepsy.

Some people avoid seeking treatment because they do not want to be seen to be associated with someone who has the disease, Dr Jayoussi said. "People want to stay away from it because of stigma. They don't want their kid to have it, so they fall into denial." Parents were often hesitant about giving their children epilepsy treatment, sometimes because people around them said the medication might affect the intelligence of the child, or sometimes when a child had gone several months without convulsions they thought the disease had gone.

"They don't realise that the medicine is the reason that it is controlled," Dr Jayoussi said. She emphasised that treatment was essential to keep the disease under control. "People should get treatment after the first attack. Once the patient has been without convulsions for two years, we can start tapering them off the medicine. "To control epilepsy, you need good follow-up at the outpatient level."

Epilepsy is caused by extra electricity in the brain. Fits are characterised by uncontrollable movements, such as jerking the arms and legs, and can leave the sufferer unconscious. The disease has no impact on the sufferer's intelligence. Fits are not dangerous in themselves, but they deprive the brain of oxygen and prolonged exposure to them can cause complications. "If epilepsy is not treated and it becomes repetitive, it can affect the function of the brain," Dr Jayoussi explained.

It could also lead to road accidents because sufferers have no control over their body during convulsions and could be injured. @Email:amcmeans@thenational.ae