West African Journal of Medicine

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Illness Concept among People with Epilepsy and their Caregivers and Preferred Treatment Methods in a Suburban Community in Southeast Nigeria

PO Nwani, EO Arinzechi, AL Asomugha, KO Enwereji, MC Nwosu, AO Ogunniyi


Background: Epilepsy, one of the world’s most prevalent chronic diseases is still regarded as a supernatural disease in many parts of the world. These superstitious and cultural beliefs tend to influence treatment seeking behavior of people living with epilepsy (PWE) and their caregivers.
Study design: People living with epilepsy in a semi-urban community in Southeast Nigeria were identified in a two phase door-to-door cross-sectional descriptive study. Those identified and their caregivers were further interviewed to determine their concepts of the disease, their treatment (actual and preferred) and what informed treatment.
Results: We found 29 cases of active epilepsy, 16 (55.2%) males and 13 (44.8%) females. Witchcraft was held as a major cause of epilepsy in the community accounting for 36.2% (n=17) of the responses. The three major treatment modalities used were spiritual (healing churches), traditional (herbal medicines) and orthodox treatment with antiepileptic drugs. Spiritual treatment was the preferred treatment modality, though most (89.7%) have used traditional (herbal medicine) treatment at one point in the course of the disease. Beliefs on epilepsy and information on the disease obtained mostly from non-medical sources informed treatment.
Conclusion: The epileptic population studied preferred spiritual treatment though use of traditional treatment was also common. Treatment seeking behavior was greatly influenced by their beliefs and information on the disease obtained mainly from non-medical sources.

Keywords: Active epilepsy, Witchcraft, Spiritual treatment, Traditional treatment.

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