KARACHI - Experts have expressed their serious concern over the high prevalence of epilepsy in the country as around 1.2 per cent of Pakistani population is suffering from the disease. Around 50 million people are suffering with epilepsy worldwide and about 85 per cent of whom live in developing countries. However, Pakistan is leading the world in terms of having high prevalence of the disease. Talking to The Nation, Director, International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), Prof Dr Muhammad Iqbal Chaudhry said epilepsy was one of the most prevalent neurological disorders in the world, while it can be effectively prevented and treated at an affordable cost. Dr Iqbal, who spent considerable time in discovering of effective drug for the disease through natural product chemistry, said that nearly 1.2 per cent of total population of the country had suffered, while the said percentage was double as compared to rest of the world. Around 0.5 per cent people have been suffered in rest of the world and an estimated 2.4 million new cases take place each year worldwide. He urged the government to take effective measures to lessen the prevalence of epilepsy in the country. As per World Health Organisation (WHO), It is the most common serious brain disorder worldwide with no age, racial, social class, neither national nor geographic boundaries. At least 50 per cent of cases begin at childhood or adolescence; 70 per cent to 80 per cent of people with epilepsy could lead normal lives if properly treated. In developing countries, 60 per cent to 90 per cent of people with epilepsy receive no treatment due to inadequacies in health care resources and delivery, and due to social stigma. Prof Dr Fatima Shad, a senior scientist of Dr Punjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD), said that there were five major types of epilepsies that included Absence Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, Frontal Lobe Epilepsy, Occipital Lobe Epilepsy and Parietal Lobe Epilepsy. That most of the epileptic fits could be due to any cause such as high fever, brain damage, or abnormal development of the brain. About three-quarters of the cases of epilepsy are still of unknown etiology. Brain tumors, alcoholism, and Alzheimers disease can cause epilepsy because they alter the normal workings of the brain. Stroke, heart attacks, and other conditions that affect the blood supply to the brain can cause epilepsy by depriving the brain of oxygen. Infectious diseases such as meningitis, viral encephalitis, AIDS, cerebral palsy, autism, and a number of other developmental and metabolic disorders can cause epilepsy. Developing brain of a fetus is susceptible to prenatal injuries that may occur if the pregnant mother has an infection, doesnt eat properly, smokes or abuses drugs or alcohol. Epilepsy may develop because of neurochemicals imbal-ancement in the brain that is an increase in excitatory and a decrease in inhibitory neurot-ransmitter (GABA). A number of the drugs used to treat epilepsy stimulate production of GABA, she said. Environmental factors such as lack of sleep, stress, or hormonal changes, withdrawal from certain antidepressant and anti-anxiety drugs may also cause epileptic attacks. Food is very important for triggering epilepsy. People who have progressive myoclonus epilepsy are missing a gene that helps break down protein so they have to avoid eating meat, chicken cheese and mushroom. Hereditary factors are not always a direct cause of epilepsy but may influence the disease indirectly. Genes can affect the way people process drugs or can cause areas of dysfunction neurons in the brain. Talking about the treatment of the disease, she said that once a disease was diagnosed, it is important to begin treatment right away. Pakistan faces an urgent need to set up effectual and culturally proper mental health services, she urged.