Every week in Australia, 280 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy. Of those, 1 in 10 people will experience a seizure in their lifetime. World Purple Day is an important day, held on March 26th, bringing awareness to people impacted by epilepsy.

“Make March Purple”, the Australia wide campaign, is supported by epilepsy organisations across the country and the national peak body, Epilepsy Australia.

The home doctor experts at House Call Doctor have all the information you need to know on epilepsy.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a disease that causes someone to have recurring seizures due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

Epilepsy comes in many forms. Some people will have one seizure at some stage in their lives with no reoccurrence, some children with epilepsy eventually grow out of it by the time they reach adulthood, and for some, it may be a lifelong predisposition.

What causes epilepsy?

There are many causes of epilepsy however in 50% of cases, the cause is unknown. Structural abnormalities in the developing brain can cause epilepsy, such as infections, lack of oxygen or stroke. Brain injuries can also cause epilepsy but can sometimes take years between the damage occurring and the seizures commencing.

What is a seizure?

There are many different types of seizures that are determined by the part of the brain involved. A seizure occurs as a result of disrupted electrical activity in the brain. Seizures can cause loss of consciousness, convulsions and a range of other unusual feelings, behaviours and sensations. Generalised seizures are those that involve the whole brain, whereas focal seizures involve only part of the brain.

How is epilepsy diagnosed?

There are many stages in the diagnostic process which can lead to it being a lengthy process. It can take a lot of tests to determine if the sufferer has epilepsy, and if so, what sort it is, and where it starts in the brain.

To correctly diagnose epilepsy, doctors use a range of methods, including a full clinical history, good description of the seizure/s, a physical and neurological examination, and other tests that may include an EEG recording, CT scan, or MRI brain scan.

How is epilepsy treated?

The most common form of treatment for epilepsy is medication, however, this doesn’t work for everyone. Other methods of treatment include:

  • Surgery on the area of the brain causing seizures
  • A strict medically supervised diet called a ketogenic diet
  • Vagus nerve stimulation
  • Medical cannabis.

How to get involved in “Make March Purple”?

  • You can host your own event at home or work
  • Join the Story Bridge climb on March 26th as it lights up purple
  • Join one of the many challenges happening over the month of March, including walks, runs, swims, cycles or you can make up your own challenge
  • Donate: you can support Purple Day in your State and territory by donating to your local Epilepsy Australia association. Epilepsy Queensland is aiming to raise $100,000 to ensure they can continue to deliver essential support services to people impacted by epilepsy.