Southeast Georgia Health System Celebrates Purple Day for Epilepsy Awareness

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Southeast Georgia Health System is joining individuals and organizations across the globe in observing March 26 as Purple Day™, a World Day for Epilepsy Awareness. The Health System encourages everyone to wear purple, and will be serving cookies with purple icing in both hospital cafeterias.

Purple Day was founded in 2008 by nine-year-old Cassidy Megan of Nova Scotia, Canada, with the help of the Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia. It has since spread to more than a dozen countries around the world.

According to Lori Trefts, M.D., a board-certified neurologist with Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Neurosciences, a strategic affiliate of the Health System, epilepsy is a condition where people are susceptible to seizures, caused by abnormal electricity in their brain. While approximately two percent of the population will experience a single seizure during their life, epilepsy is diagnosed when a person has a risk for recurrent seizures.

There are many different types of seizures, which vary from the well-known "grand-mal" seizure, where a person experiences unconsciousness, convulsions and muscle rigidity, to less dramatic types such as when a person loses consciousness briefly and may be noticed as staring or with a blank-looking face. Seizures can start during childhood or adulthood. Sometimes they are the result of some kind of brain injury, such as a car accident, an infection or a stroke, but sometimes the reason is unknown.

"The tough thing for patients with seizures is how unpredictable they are, often coming with no or very little warning," Trefts says. "Seizures can also be very disruptive to a person’s life. If they aren’t controlled, the person generally will not be allowed to drive and may not be able to engage in a variety of activities, such as swimming, or performing certain job tasks, such as work that involves heights."

The good news is that medications are generally helpful in controlling seizures. "The number of medications available to treat seizures has grown dramatically over the past 20 years, and the safety and tolerability of these medications has improved," says Trefts. If seizures cannot be controlled with medication, there are surgical options.

Trefts says that in addition to a health care provider consultation, there are several websites that provide helpful resources for patient and family members who are concerned about epilepsy. These include the American Epilepsy Society,

www.aesnet.org, and the National Institutes of Health, www.nih.gov.