In recognition of March as Epilepsy Awareness Month, we are raising awareness about this condition and the innovative ways to treat people with epilepsy.
According to reports for 2019-2020, about 142,74 people are living with active epilepsy in Australia. In South Australia alone, 63,000 people are living with epilepsy and about 34,000 with the same condition in the Northern Territory. It costs the Australian economy a total of $12.3 billion. Epilepsy does not discriminate and can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, and location.
Epilepsy is a devastating condition to manage for many. The support, vital information, and services from the community are an absolute necessity. National Epilepsy Awareness Month seeks to raise awareness and educate the general public on the facts about epilepsy. It also promotes the need for improved treatment, better care, and greater investment in research.
What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a brain condition that causes a person to have seizures and can affect young children and adults of all demographics. It is one of the most common disorders of the central nervous system.
Seizures are the main symptom of epilepsy. They are commonly caused by an interruption in the normal flow of brain signals. A person’s brain is consists of nerve cells that communicate with each other through electrical activity. When one or more parts of the brain experience a burst of abnormal electrical signals, it can interrupt normal brain signals. It will eventually lead to seizures.
Anything that interrupts the normal activity between nerve cells in the brain can cause seizure attacks. It includes extremely high body temperature, fever, low or high blood sugar, and a brain concussion. When a person has two or more seizures with unknown causes, it is diagnosed as epilepsy.
Epilepsy is more than Seizures.
Epilepsy is one of the world’s oldest known medical conditions. Despite that, fear and misunderstanding about the condition still exist, and many people are still reluctant to talk about it. That reluctance leads people with epilepsy to live life in the shadows. It leads to a lack of understanding about the risks, discrimination, and lack of funding for research and treatment. People with epilepsy have a high rate of premature mortality in comparison to the general population.
For many people with active epilepsy, misconceptions and discrimination from others are on the top list of their concerns. In many cases, those can be more difficult to overcome than the seizures themselves.
Symptoms of Epileptic Seizures
Seizure symptoms may vary from person to person. These symptoms can include:
- a staring spell (or blank stare)
- jerking movements of the arms and legs
- stiffening of the body
- loss of consciousness
- nodding head rhythmically (this is associated with loss of awareness)
- periods of rapid eye blinking and staring
During a seizure, the person’s lips may have a tint of blue. Check for breathing as they may experience blockage of the airway during seizures. After the attack, it is not uncommon for a person to feel sleepy or confused. When this happens, call for help.
Seizure First Aid
- Stay with the person and, if possible, start timing the seizure. Remain calm and check for medical ID or if they have other visible emergency information.
- Keep the person safe and away from any further danger. Remove harmful objects present in the scene.
- Help the person down in a safe position. Turn them onto their side if they are not awake and not responsive.
- Do not block the person’s airway. It will help to put something small and soft under the head and loosen tight clothes around the neck.
- Do not put anything in the person’s mouth. Do not give them water, pills (for medication), or food until they are awake.
- Do not restrain the person while having seizures. They may become aggressive if you do so.
- Stay with the person until they are awake and alert after the seizure. Most seizures end in a matter of a few minutes.
When to call an ambulance
Call the local emergency services if you observe the following symptoms:
- A seizure that lasts longer than 5 minutes
- Repeated or recurrent seizures
- Difficulty breathing
- A seizure that occurs in water
- The person is injured, pregnant, or sick
- The person does not return to their usual state
- First-time seizure
National Awareness Month provides a platform for people with epilepsy to share their experiences and stories with the Australian audience. This celebration also calls for everyone to advocate for appropriate legislation for the condition. This helps guarantee the human rights of people with epilepsy. It also encourages them to live to their fullest potential.
Host a Purple Day
March 26 is what we call Purple Day.
On this day, people from Australia and around the globe are encouraged to spread the word about epilepsy by wearing purple. You can also help celebrate Epilepsy Awareness Month in a simple way. One option is to purchase something purple from accredited shops. All proceeds from the sale will go directly towards supporting the epileptic centre for research and future outreach programs.
The purpose of celebrating ‘Purple Day’ is to encourage people to talk about the condition. It is also to remind those who live with epileptic seizures that they are not alone. Unfortunately, the suicide rate among youths with epilepsy is 25% higher than other youth issues. Many people living with epilepsy describe it as a life of uncertainty, confusion, isolation, and embarrassment. We believe no one should have to endure this kind of situation.
Purple Day aims to increase awareness about epilepsy worldwide. People will join in or host events to promote epilepsy awareness and raise funds. Australians can show their support by joining or hosting a Purple Day fundraising event. You can hold it at school, workplace, or neighbourhood. You can also buy merchandise or donate to raise epilepsy awareness.
You can also show your support on Purple Day or National Epilepsy Awareness in your state or territory. Click the link to your state or territory Epilepsy Australia association below:
- Epilepsy Foundation (NSW/Vic)
- Epilepsy Queensland
- The Epilepsy Centre SA & NT
- Epilepsy ACT
- Epilepsy Tasmania
- Epilepsy WA
This National Epilepsy Awareness Month – encourage people to talk about the topic. Remind those who live with epilepsy that they are not alone.