November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. Why does epilepsy need more awareness? Because it is simply not talked about.

In Kenya, over half of the people with epilepsy have not been treated with standard antiepileptic treatment. While some patients receive no treatment at all for their condition, others are treated inappropriately with high-cost technologies that incur unnecessarily high expenses. Because of stigma attached to the diagnosis of epilepsy, people are unlikely to admit that they have the condition and thus not get to know that adequate treatment exists.

Overview of Epilepsy

Research in epilepsy is focused on trying to understand the process that leads the brain to have seizures as well as trying to discover new and better ways to treat epilepsy. Our ability to define the different problems that can lead to epilepsy at genetic, molecular, and cellular levels will help us to target prevention and therapy. For example, recent research suggests that some forms of epilepsy result from disorders in ion channels; drugs that influence ion channels can help to control seizures. Other research has shown that excessive immunological responses (autoimmunity) can irritate brain cells and provoke seizures, and that seizure activity can lead to increased immunological activity.

Epilepsy is a disorder, not a disease. Anything that injures the brain or affects its functions has the potential to cause seizures. Epilepsy research is directed at trying to find common pathways that underlie epilepsy. Large multicenter studies that pool data from many sites may help us to collect a sufficiently powerful set of data to better understand the genetics of why epilepsy is difficult to control in some individuals while others have bad side effects to specific medications.

Increasing public awareness about epilepsy and advocating for patients and families remains critical for improving the quality of lives for people with epilepsy NOW. Our society often discriminates or creates obstacles for individuals with medical problems, especially those with disorders that are misunderstood. And epilepsy is the paradigm of a disorder in which lack of information and misinformation is common among the general population. Increasing awareness can make the school, work, and life with epilepsy much easier and much more productive.


The overarching goal of this campaign is to reduce the epilepsy knowledge and treatment gaps in Kenya.

*Orrin Devinsky is Professor of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine. He directs the NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center and the Saint Barnabas Institute of Neurology and Neurosurgery. He also currently directs the Phenome Core for the Epilepsy Phenome Genome Project. Orrin founded Finding A Cure Against Epilepsy and Seizures (FACES) and co-founded and the Epilepsy Therapy Project. He currently serves as the President of the Epilepsy Research Foundation and has served on boards of the American Epilepsy Society and local and national Epilepsy Foundation. He has published widely in epilepsy and behavioral neurology, with more than 250 articles, 50 chapters and 20 books and monographs.