Message from the Ministry of Health on International Epilepsy Day

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The International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE), has designated February 14, International Epilepsy Day.  Annually, this event is observed on the second Monday in February. 

This year, the Ministry of Health (MOH) is collaborating with the Epilepsy Foundation of Guyana (EFG) to raise awareness and educate the general public and address the stigma attached to this condition. 

Epilepsy is a common disorder of the brain that causes repeated seizures. Seizures are short changes in normal brain activity and are the main signs of epilepsy. 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 50 million people are living with epilepsy around the world and 80% of this figure resides in low to middle-income countries, with three-quarters of the affected not being able to access medication for this ailment.  In 2018, epilepsy deaths reached 22 or 0.37% of the total deaths in Guyana. The age-adjusted death is 3.35 per 100,000 population, ranking Guyana # 29 in the world. This emphasised that more needs to be done to ensure that premature deaths from this disease are reduced.

Over the years, the MOH has partnered with various external partners (like EFG) to pursue its overarching objective to improve how people with epilepsy are perceived, accepted and valued in Guyana. It has also worked to ensure that medical services and treatment are readily available and accessible to those in need of care while providing the necessary help for persons with epilepsy/seizures to fully participate and experience life like every other citizen. 

At this time, no test can prove whether someone has or doesn’t have epilepsy. Tests such as the electroencephalogram (EEG) – which records brainwave patterns – can give doctors useful information. However, diagnosis of epilepsy should be made by a Medical Doctor with specialised training in epilepsy.  To make a diagnosis, an Epilepsy Specialist will use their expert knowledge and look at the information from several tests. 

Epilepsy is usually treated with epilepsy medicines, often referred to as anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). Epilepsy medicines act on the brain, trying to reduce seizures or stop seizures from happening. Lots of people with epilepsy find that when they have the right medicine, they have fewer or no seizures.  If epilepsy medicines do not work for you, other treatments like brain surgery, vagus nerve stimulation, a ketogenic diet, deep brain stimulation and trigeminal nerve stimulation may help. 

Care and treatment for persons diagnosed with epilepsy are paramount to the Ministry. Training for healthcare workers throughout the ten administrative regions has been ongoing at all levels of care, all geared towards early diagnosis and treatment of this condition.

Medications to treat epilepsy are currently on the Essential Medicines List (EML) therefore, it’s readily available to all Guyanese regardless of their geographic location.  

To have a wider reach to patients, the Health Ministry has worked with partners such as the Epilepsy Foundation of Guyana which is an association of physicians, health professionals, and allied- and para-health professionals and other persons of any sort – including epileptics themselves – in Guyana, committed to promoting the equal health care access for people living with epilepsy in Guyana and the rights of people suffering from seizures, especially in the areas of health, education and employment.  

The Epilepsy Foundation of Guyana (EFG) was registered on the 14th November 2014 under the Friendly Societies Act. The work of the EFG is organised around three sub-committees:

• Care and Treatment

• Education and Public Awareness

• Fund Raising

Any epileptic requiring medical attention can seek care at their nearest health facility. If you wish to learn more about the work of EFG, contact can be made via email epilepsyfoundationgy@gmail.com  or telephone us at +592 +592 645 7776).

Message from the Ministry of Health and the Epilepsy Foundation of Guyana (EFG)

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