Epilepsy historical perspective

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Fahimeh Shojaei, M.D.,Vishnu Vardhan Serla M.B.B.S. [2]

Overview

The word epilepsy is derived from the Greek epilepsia, which in turn can be broken in to epi- (upon) and lepsis (to take hold of, or seizure). In the past, epilepsy was associated with religious experiences and even demonic possession. Claudius Galen was the first person who described epilepsy as a brain disease. Boerhaave was the first person who differentiate petit mal epilepsy, grand mal epilepsy and hysteria. Marshall Hall described reflex theory in which paroxysmal nervous discharges are responsible for epilepsy seizures. The very first evidence of epilepsy treatment goes back to 10,000 years ago when making holes in skull bones was done in order to treat epilepsy. In the past three decades anti-epileptic drugs are used widely for symptomatic control of epileptic patients.

Historical Perspective

Discovery

  • The word epilepsy is derived from the Greek epilepsia, which in turn can be broken in to epi- (upon) and lepsis (to take hold of, or seizure)[1]
  • In the past, epilepsy was associated with religious experiences and even demonic possession.
  • In ancient times, epilepsy was known as the "Sacred Disease" because people thought that epileptic seizures were a form of attack by demons, or that the visions experienced by persons with epilepsy were sent by the Gods.
  • Among animist Hmong families, for example, epilepsy was understood as an attack by an evil spirit, but the affected person could become revered as a shaman through these otherworldly experiences.[3]
  • However, in most cultures, persons with epilepsy have been stigmatized, shunned, or even imprisoned.
  • In the Salpêtrière, the birthplace of modern neurology, Jean-Martin Charcot found people with epilepsy side-by-side with the mentally retarded, those with chronic syphilis, and the criminally insane.
  • In Tanzania to this day, as with other parts of Africa, epilepsy is associated with possession by evil spirits, witchcraft, or poisoning and is believed by many to be contagious.[2]
  • In ancient Rome, epilepsy was known as the Morbus Comitialis ('disease of the assembly hall') and was seen as a curse from the gods.
  • Stigma continues to this day, in both the public and private spheres, but polls suggest it is generally decreasing with time, at least in the developed world.
  • Hippocrates remarked that epilepsy would cease to be considered divine the day it was understood.[3]
  • Claudius Galen was the first person who described epilepsy as a brain disease.

Landmark Events in the Development of Treatment Strategies

  • The very first evidence of epilepsy treatment goes back to 10,000 years ago when making holes in skull bones was done in order to treat epilepsy.[4]
  • In the past three decades anti-epileptic drugs are used widely for symptomatic control of epileptic patients.[5][6]

Famous Cases

The following are a few famous cases who are said to have had epilepsy:[7]

  • Pythagoras (582–500 BC)
  • Aristotle (384–322 BC)
  • Hannibal (Barca) (247–183 BC)
  • Alfred the Great (849–899)
  • Dante Alighieri (1265–1321)
  • Johanne la Pucelle (Joan of Arc) (1412–1431)
  • Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)
  • Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564)
  • Armand-Jean du Plessis (Cardinal Richelieu) (1585–1642)
  • King Louis XIII of France (1601–1643)
  • Jean-Baptiste Poquelin-Molie´re (1622–1673)
  • Blaise Pascal (1623–1662)
  • Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727)
  • William of Orange (1650–1702)
  • Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)
  • George Frideric Handel (1685–1759)
  • William Pitt, Earl of Chatham (1708–1778)
  • Samuel Johnson (1709–1784)
  • Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778)
  • James Madison (1751–1836)
  • Ludwig von Beethoven (1770–1827)
  • Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832)
  • Niccolo Paganini (1784–1840)
  • George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788–1824)
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)
  • Louis Hector Berlioz (1803–1869)
  • Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849)
  • Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)
  • Robert Schumann (1810–1856)
  • Charles Dickens (1812–1870)
  • Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813–1855)
  • Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand Von Helmholtz (1821–1894)
  • Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880)
  • Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910)
  • Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Lewis Carroll (1832–1898)
  • Alfred Nobel (1833–1896)
  • William Morris (1834–1896)
  • Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837–1909)
  • Henri-Rene´-Albert Guy de Maupassant (1850–1893)
  • Agatha (Miller) Christie (1890–1976)
  • Truman (Streckfus Persons) Capote (1924–1984)
  • Richard Burton (1925–1984)

Many studies demonstrated that there are doubts about diagnosis of epilepsy in these patients.

References

  1. Harper, Douglas (2001). "epilepsy". Online Etymological Dictionary. Retrieved 2005-06-05.
  2. Morbus sacer in Africa: some religious aspects of epilepsy in traditional cultures. Jilek-Aall L. PMID: 10080524 Retrieved 8 October 2006.
  3. Hippocrates quotes
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Hassell, Thomas (1981). Epilepsy and the oral manifestations of phenytoin therapy. Basel New York: Karger. ISBN 978-3-8055-1008-0.
  5. Löscher W, Schmidt D (April 2011). "Modern antiepileptic drug development has failed to deliver: ways out of the current dilemma". Epilepsia. 52 (4): 657–78. doi:10.1111/j.1528-1167.2011.03024.x. PMID 21426333.
  6. Schmidt D (June 2012). "Is antiepileptogenesis a realistic goal in clinical trials? Concerns and new horizons". Epileptic Disord. 14 (2): 105–13. PMID 22977896.
  7. Hughes JR (March 2005). "Did all those famous people really have epilepsy?". Epilepsy Behav. 6 (2): 115–39. doi:10.1016/j.yebeh.2004.11.011. PMID 15710295.

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