By: Steve Bond, BScPhm, RPh, CDE
What do Barney the dinosaur, the musician formerly known as Prince and Epilepsy have in common?  They have all chosen purple as their definitive colour.  In 2008, a nine-year-old girl from Nova Scotia, Cassidy Megan wanted to raise awareness about epilepsy.  She chose the colour because in some cultures the lavender flower is often associated with solitude, which is representative of the feelings of isolation many people affected by epilepsy and seizure disorders often feel.  She wanted to raise awareness and for people with epilepsy to know they are not alone! Since that day, March is now recognized as Epilepsy Awareness Month, and March 26th is International “Purple Day”.

Epilepsy is a condition of the brain that is characterized by recurrent seizures and affects 1 in 100 Canadians. A seizure is a brief, abnormal, excessive surge of electrical activity in the brain that produces a sometimes noticeable change in behaviour. A seizure may appear as a brief stare, an unusual movement of the body, a change in awareness, or a convulsion. A seizure may last a few seconds or a few minutes. Seizures are generally described in two major groups of seizures, primary generalized seizures and partial seizures. If the excessive electrical discharge is restricted to a given (localized) area in the brain, the seizure is termed partial. If the entire brain is involved, the seizure is generalized. This classification was determined by The International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) Commission. The newest recommendations from ILAE divide seizures into generalized and focal.

A number of medications are currently used in the treatment of epilepsy. Understanding the type of seizure is important as different medications are used for different types of seizures. People who have more than one type of seizure may have to take more than one kind of drug.  However, like any other treatment for disorder, doctors try to control the symptoms with as few medications as possible. As the number of medications increases so does the risk of side effects and interactions.  Whichever medications are used, it is important to take them regularly and when asked, and  have a blood test done for the levels. So on March 26th, break out your purple (or dress like Barney) and show people affected by epilepsy that they are not alone.  Take care of yourselves and each other