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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 08:40 GMT 09:40 UK
Bright future for epilepsy treatment?
Stephen Stewart
BBC Scotland news website

Drugs
Drugs can be very effective in the treatment of epilepsy
Many older people still live in fear of the perceived stigma attached to epilepsy.

Fear and misunderstanding still surround the condition and some can be left with depression after their diagnosis.

The elderly are especially sensitive to the term 'epilepsy' which some view as pejorative.

But the future is bright for those struggling to cope with a diagnosis: the outcome with suitable medication is usually very good.

Professor Martin J Brodie, director of the epilepsy unit at the Western Infirmary in Glasgow, said: "The problem with epilepsy in the elderly is that the seizures are almost invariably a consequence of concomitant brain dysfunction due, for instance, to cerebrovascular disease or dementia.

"These patients are seen by a range of specialists. Very few of them are referred to my own epilepsy service here at the Western Infirmary.

The increasing number of older people in Scotland is one of the key drivers in our work and exactly why we are developing an action plan for long-term conditions
Government spokeswoman

"There is now increasing interest by geriatricians in epilepsy and the other conditions that can mimic epileptic seizures."

The Scottish Government also said that more resources were being dedicated to the growth in older people with epilepsy.

A spokeswoman said: "We know from our work on the management of long-term conditions such as epilepsy, that getting an accurate diagnosis as early as possible is extremely important.

'Population time bomb'

"The increasing number of older people in Scotland is one of the key drivers in our work and exactly why we are developing an action plan for long-term conditions."

Epilepsy Scotland, however, said that more must be done to deal with the crisis as more than a quarter of the population would be aged 65 or older by 2031.

A spokeswoman said: "Unfortunately, the general public see epilepsy as something that happens in childhood.

"People don't realise epilepsy is more likely to happen in later life. We face a population time bomb.

A human brain
Epilepsy is triggered by disturbances in the brain's electrical activity

"Change needs to come from the top. Health boards need to realise this is a problem and plan for it accordingly."

Scotland has a shortage of doctors who specialise in epilepsy and not every health board employs epilepsy specialist nurses.

NHS Quality Improvement Scotland is currently developing clinical standards for all neurological conditions, including epilepsy.

But crucially, there are no specialist services or clinics for older people with epilepsy - yet.


SEE ALSO
Epilepsy rates' deprivation link
24 Sep 03 |  Scotland

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