Social Responsibility

Predicting seizures to reduce life-threatening injuries for epilepsy patients

Health Industry Hub | March 26, 2020 |
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One in 10 Australians living with epilepsy experience a seizure-related injury each year, many of which are potentially life-threatening, according to an article just published in MJA InSight to mark Purple Day – the international epilepsy awareness day.

The most commonly reported seizure-related injuries sustained by those living with the neurological disease include head, water immersion, driving, burns, fractures and dental-related injuries.

One in three Australians living with epilepsy will sustain a seizure-related injury in their lifetime, more than 50 per cent of which will prove particularly dangerous to the head.

MJA Insight article co-author and neurologist, epileptologist and epidemiologist, A/Prof Wendyl D’Souza, St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, who is supporting the Look for epilepsy initiative, hopes new and improved ways of predicting seizures will reduce risk factors for Australians living with epilepsy.

“Concerningly, people living with epilepsy have a mortality rate of up to three times higher than the general population. A frequent cause of epilepsy-related death is Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP), where sudden death occurs in a person with the disease for no apparent reason.

“The ability to forecast when someone may be at high risk of seizures through wearable devices, for instance, may help to reduce uncertainty, and allow for the implementation of preventative strategies to minimise the risk of physical injury, and SUDEP,” said A/Prof D’Souza.

A new initiative urges Australians to lend their support to members of the epilepsy community by visiting, taking a selfie with a purple glasses filter on the site, and sharing the selfie on their social media channels to support epilepsy awareness, using the hashtag #lookforepilepsy.

“Living with epilepsy is very challenging, both physically and mentally. The disease affects my memory and the seizures make me very tired,” said passionate cellist and Sydney Conservatorium of Music student, Amy, 20, Sydney, who was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2017.

“If I’m crossing the road while having an absence seizure, I could literally freeze for up to 10 seconds and a car could hit me,” she commented.

Epilepsy Action Australia CEO and Managing Director, Carol Ireland, hopes improving awareness of epilepsy will serve to address the abundant myths and misconceptions surrounding the disease.

“There are many common myths and misconceptions involving epilepsy. Epilepsy is something everyone has heard of, but that’s usually the extent of their knowledge. Some people think it’s psychiatric in nature, but it’s certainly not. It’s very physical.

“That’s why the Look for epilepsy initiative is so important, because it allows our community to raise awareness of epilepsy, and reinforce the much needed support available to those in need,” said Ms Ireland.

Today (March 26) is Purple Day, a global initiative dedicated to raising epilepsy awareness. Purple Day was founded in 2008, by nine-year-old Cassidy Megan of Nova Scotia, Canada. Motivated by her own struggles with epilepsy, Cassidy started Purple Day in an effort to get people talking about the condition and to let those impacted by seizures know that they are not alone. She named the day Purple Day after the internationally recognised colour for epilepsy, lavender.

Due to the current circumstances of the COVID19 outbreak, Epilepsy Action Australia has cancelled all public events in line with government recommendations. Please help recover from these fundraising losses, by considering a donation. Epilepsy Action Australia’s nurses are needed more than ever at this time of heightened community stress. Hopefully you’ll be ready to socialise again by November, in time to hold a morning tea fundraiser during Australia’s own Epilepsy Awareness Month!

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