Onchocerciasis-endemic regions are known to have a high epilepsy prevalence. Limited resources in these areas and poor access to healthcare by persons with epilepsy (PWE) result in a wide anti-epileptic treatment gap, poor seizure control and a high burden of seizure-related complications. Recent community-based surveys highlight the need for epilepsy management strategies suitable for remote onchocerciasis-endemic villages to ensure better health outcomes for PWE. In this paper, we propose a feasible approach to manage PWE in such settings.
Improved management of PWE in onchocerciasis-endemic areas may be achieved by decentralizing epilepsy care. Simplified approaches for the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy may be used by non-physicians, under the supervision of physicians or specialists. To reduce the treatment gap, a regular supply of subsidized anti-epileptic drugs (AED) appropriate for different types of onchocerciasis-associated epilepsy should be instituted. Setting up a community-based epilepsy surveillance system will enable early diagnosis and treatment of PWE thereby preventing complications. Community awareness programs on epilepsy must be implemented to reduce stigma and facilitate the social rehabilitation of PWE. Finally, strengthening onchocerciasis elimination programs by optimizing community-directed treatment with ivermectin (CDTI) and considering alternative treatment strategies might reduce the incidence of epilepsy.
A community-based approach with task-shifting of epilepsy care from specialists to non-physician health workers will reduce epilepsy-associated morbidity. Increased advocacy and collaboration with various stakeholders is needed to establish a sustainable, cost-effective chronic care model for epilepsy that will significantly improve the quality of life of PWE in onchocerciasis-endemic regions.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
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