March 26th is Purple Day. Purple is the color associated with Relay For Life. I have been a Relay For Life volunteer for nine years. But Purple Day is not associated with Relay For Life. Purple Day is the global day of epilepsy awareness. People around the world are asked to wear purple on March 26 and encourage others to do the same.
Epilepsy affects over 50 million people worldwide. That's more than multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson's disease combined.
Here are some facts about epilepsy.
It’s estimated that 1 in 100 people have epilepsy
There are approximately 2.2 million Americans living with epilepsy.
Epilepsy is NOT contagious. Epilepsy is NOT a disease. Epilepsy is NOT a psychological disorder.
There is currently no “cure” for epilepsy. For more than half of people with epilepsy, medication will control their seizures. Additionally, some children will outgrow their epilepsy and some adults may have a spontaneous remission.
Not everyone can identify specific events or circumstances that affect seizures, but some are able to recognize definite seizure triggers. Some common triggers include:
Forgetting to take prescribed seizure medication
Lack of sleep
Stress, excitement, emotional upset
Menstrual cycle / hormonal changes
Illness or fever
Low seizure medication levels
Medications other than prescribed seizure medication
Flickering lights of computers, television, videos, etc., and sometimes even bright sunlight
When I was a boy I suffered from a mild form of epilepsy. I had episodes called petit mals. A petit mal seizure is the term commonly given to a staring spell, most commonly called an "absence seizure." It is a brief (usually less than 15 seconds) disturbance of brain function due to abnormal electrical activity in the brain. I had no idea that other people did not experience them. I could feel them coming on and knew to sit down or hold on to something for a few seconds.
MY SCHOOL PHOTO CIRCA 1967
The first time that my Mother witnessed one of my petit mals she was very scared. I guess that my eyes rolled back in my head. I knew that for those few seconds that I could not see, but did not know that my eyes rolled back. I didn't think that it was a big deal, but my Mom said I had to see the doctor as soon as possible. The doctors were able to control the petit mals with medication, and told me that I would most likely outgrow them by the time I was 20. Fortunately I did, and was taken off of the medication by the time I was 18 or 19.
Epilepsy is a medical condition that produces seizures affecting a variety of mental and physical functions. It’s also called a seizure disorder. When a person has two or more unprovoked seizures, they are considered to have epilepsy.
A seizure happens when a brief, strong surge of electrical activity affects part or all of the brain. One in 10 adults will have a seizure sometime during their life.
Seizures can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. They can have many symptoms, from convulsions and loss of consciousness to some that are not always recognized as seizures by the person experiencing them or by health care professionals: blank staring, lip smacking, or jerking movements of arms and legs.
Please take the time to learn more about this condition that affects over 50 million people worldwide. Based on recent surveys, The Center For Disease Control estimates that over two million people in the United States have epilepsy, with 150,000 developing the condition each year.
One way to get involved is to participate in Purple Day. Purple Day was started in 2008, by nine-year-old Cassidy Megan of Nova Scotia, Canada. It is an international grassroots effort dedicated to increasing awareness about epilepsy worldwide. On March 26, people from around the globe are asked to wear purple and spread the word about epilepsy. You can learn more about Purple Day by going here.