Epilepsy accounts for 0.5% of the global burden of disease, with more than 50 million people affected worldwide; 80% of them are in developing regions. People with epilepsy and their families can suffer from stigma and discrimination in many parts of the world. Although this disorder is common in Saudi Arabia, with a prevalence of 6.54 per 1000, no study of epilepsy awareness, knowledge, and attitudes has been reported from the Aseer region.
The study was conducted using a validated self-administered questionnaire to assess awareness, knowledge, and attitudes toward epilepsy and the sociodemographic data of the participants.
In the total sample of 1044 (mean age: 28±9years; 53.2% were males; from different educational and social levels), almost all had heard about epilepsy (96.1%), and the majority knew someone with epilepsy (60.7%). In spite of that, knowledge about the etiology and nature of epilepsy was lacking, as 40% of participants thought it was a blood disorder, 21.2% believed it was contagious, and nearly one-third viewed it as due to a mental disorder and emotional stress. Regarding public attitudes toward people with epilepsy, 19.1% would not work with them, 17% would not allow having their child mingle with a child with epilepsy at school, and more than half would not marry a person with epilepsy. Moreover, the study showed inappropriate responses when dealing with someone with a seizure; they would force some medicine down the patient's throat (49.3%), use herbal medicine (68.9%), ask a spiritual healer (31.8%), or even think it is untreatable (35.6%).
The level of epilepsy awareness in the Aseer region's population is relatively poor and needs improvement.
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