Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder in Nigeria. Many individuals are affected in rural areas, although prevalence data is not available. In this study we aimed to establish the prevalence of epilepsy in a rural community in south-east Nigeria, a community suspected for having a high number of people living with epilepsy. We compared this with the prevalence in a nearby semi-urban community in north-central Nigeria. In both communities we identified potential causes of epilepsy and obtained information on the social beliefs regarding epilepsy. We used door-to-door surveys and focus group discussions. The epilepsy prevalence in the rural community was 20.8/1000 [95% confidence interval (CI): 15.7-27.4]. The prevalence in the semi-rural community was lower, namely 4.7/1000 [CI: 3.2-6.9]. The difference in prevalence was highly significant (χ(2)-test, p<0.0001). In both communities most people with epilepsy were in the age range of 7-24 years. Causes that might be contributory to the prevalence of epilepsy in both communities included poor obstetric practices, frequent febrile convulsions, head trauma, meningitis and neurocysticercosis. In both communities we found stigma of people with epilepsy. In conclusion, the epilepsy prevalence in the semi-urban community is similar to that in industrialized countries. In contrast, the rural community has a much higher prevalence. This may require the establishment of specific community-based epilepsy control programs. Community interventions should focus on treatment of acute epilepsy and on stigma reduction.
Keywords: Attitudes toward people with epilepsy; Epidemiology; Epilepsy; Prevalence; Sub-Saharan Africa.
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