February 10, 2022

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Persons with Epilepsy in Uganda: A Descriptive Cross-Sectional Study

Abstract found in PubMed and originally published in Epilepsy & Behavior

Objective: To evaluate the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the disease course, lives, and psychosocial wellbeing of persons with epilepsy (PWE) in Uganda.

Methods: From April 2021 till May 2021, we carried out a descriptive cross-sectional study at four hospitals located in four regions of Uganda. PWE presenting at the study sites were offered a structured questionnaire in the local language. We used the PHQ-9 questionnaire to screen for depression and the GAD-7 to screen for anxiety. Univariate and multivariable logistic regression was used to investigate factors associated with anxiety and depression.

Results: A total of 370 responses were collected. The median age of the respondents was 20.5 years (IQR 15-29), and 51.9% were males. During the lockdown period, the seizure frequency increased in 87 (23.5%) PWE. Various forms of physical and psychological violence were inflicted upon 106 (28.6%) PWE. Fifty-eight (15.7%) screened positive for anxiety and 65 (17.6%) positive for depression. Both increased seizure frequency and experienced violence were associated with experiencing depression and anxiety.

Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown impacted seizure frequency and the psychosocial wellbeing of people with epilepsy in Uganda. Increased seizure frequency was associated with higher rates of anxiety and depression. This underlines the importance of continued follow-up of PWE and a low threshold to screen for depression, anxiety, and domestic violence.