1 in 10 with epilepsy sustain serious physical injuries

Call to improve community awareness, support & response to seizures this Purple Day®


Epilepsy is very common in people over the age of 60. It affects children under the age of 5, and people over 60, more than any other age groups.


In the older age group, epilepsy is mainly due to cerebrovascular disease such as a stroke or brain haemorrhage, head injury, brain tumour, and degenerative conditions including dementia.

Up to one third of people in this age group have no known cause for their epilepsy


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® (an international epilepsy awareness day).


The most commonly reported seizure-related injuries sustained by those living with the neurological (brain) disease include head (one-in-four of which require stitches), water immersion (almost 26 per cent), driving (14 per cent), burns (14 per cent), fractures (10 per cent) and dental-related injuries (10 per cent).


Doctors, advocacy groups, patients and their families are joining forces Australia-wide to highlight the serious injuries caused by epileptic seizures, and call for heightened awareness, understanding and support for the 250,000 Australians living with epilepsy, to create calmer waters through which they can safely navigate their physical journey with the disease.


According to MJA InSight article co-author and Consultant Neurologist and Epileptologist, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Sharp Neurology, Dr Kaitlyn Parratt, Sydney, experiencing even one seizure a year can pose risk of serious injury.


“A seizure is the result of abnormal, excessive or recurring electrical activity in the brain, noting there is tremendous physical risk associated with experiencing seizures.


“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, or will occur at home in the bath or swimming pool,” said Dr Parratt.


“Australians living with epilepsy are at 15-to-19 times greater risk of drowning than the general population and are also at risk of sustaining a range of other injuries, including burns, serious fractures, dislocations and car accidents.


“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.


“However, according to emerging Australian research into seizure patterns, while long-considered to be unpredictable, there is, in fact, a person-specific long-term pattern to seizures in most (80 per cent) cases,” said A/Prof Wendyl D’Souza, St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne.


“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.”


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.


March 26 is Purple Day®, a global initiative that aims to heighten community awareness of epilepsy.


Through the joint efforts of Epilepsy Action Australia, Epilepsy Australia, Epilepsy Queensland, Epilepsy ACT, the Epilepsy Foundation, Epilepsy Tasmania, The Epilepsy Centre (SA and NT) and Epilepsy WA, landmarks Australia-wide will turn purple this evening, to honour this important occasion, and applaud those living with epilepsy locally, and around the world. Some of the Australian illuminations will include the Story Bridge in Brisbane, The Royal Mint in Canberra, The Melbourne Star Observation Wheel, Government House in Hobart, Adelaide Oval and the Optus Stadium in Perth.


To join the Look for epilepsy initiative, head to www.lookforepilepsy.com.au.


To access support, information and innovative services for those living with, and affected by epilepsy, head to www.epilepsy.org.au or call an Epilepsy Action Australia Epilepsy Nurse on Monday to Friday between 9am to 5pm on 1300 37 45 37.


For counselling, support and information, head to Epilepsy Australia at www.epilepsyaustralia.net or call the Epilepsy Australia National Helpline on 1300 852 853.


About epilepsy

Epilepsy is a common brain disease involving recurrent seizures caused by a temporary disruption of electrical activity in the brain. Epilepsy is not just one condition, there are many different types, characterised by recurrent seizures, noting not all seizures are epileptic.


Epilepsy can develop at any age, regardless of gender or ethnicity. However, epilepsy is more likely to be diagnosed in childhood or senior years, noting children represent approximately 40 per cent of the epilepsy population. Epilepsy affects an estimated 50 million people world-wide, with an estimated three-to-four per cent of Australians will develop epilepsy in their lifetime.


Purple Day is a Registered Trademark of The Anita Kaufmann Foundation.


26 March 2020.