According to the CDC, about 2.9 million people in the United States have active epilepsy – that’s counting both children and adults. Characterized by unpredictable seizures, epilepsy is the fourth most diagnosed neurological disorder and can often cause sufferers to feel alone and isolated as they struggle to live a “normal” life.
That’s why this Saturday, March 26, Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute at the Texas Medical Center (MNI) is proud to join millions of people across the world to celebrate Purple Day – an international grassroots effort dedicated to increasing awareness about epilepsy. On this date every year, people in countries around the world are invited to wear purple and host events in support of epilepsy awareness. Even Houston’s City Hall is partnering with Memorial Hermann to light up purple on Saturday in honor of the event.
Purple Day was originally founded in 2008 by then eight-year-old Cassidy Megan based on her own struggles with epilepsy. Cassidy's goal was to get people talking about epilepsy in an effort to dispel myths and inform those with seizures that they are not alone.
“Awareness around epilepsy is so important for two primary reasons,” said Nitin Tandon, M.D., professor of neurosurgery and pediatric surgery at the McGovern Medical School and director of epilepsy surgery at MNI. “First, it is important to make sure people are connected to the right doctors and institutions in their neighborhood to help manage their epilepsy appropriately, but it’s also equally important that we work together to remove the stigma around epilepsy. As for diagnosis, we bring a team approach, and therapy leverages a variety of innovative techniques including magnetoencephalography (MEG), stereoelectroencephalography (SEEG), laser ablation for focal epilepsy and neuromodulation.”
While individuals who have epilepsy suffer from seizures, most often the patient has otherwise normal brain functionality. Memorial Hermann believes that giving patients access to the best physicians and advanced treatment options are key factors to reducing seizure frequency or eliminating seizures altogether. In fact, roughly two-thirds of epilepsy cases can be treated with the right medication while the remaining may require surgery.
“There are a variety of different factors that can cause epilepsy to occur in a person and part of treating epilepsy is first determining what is causing the seizure and what type of seizure is occurring,” said Gretchen Von Allmen, M.D., McGovern Medical School pediatric neurologist and director of the Pediatric Epilepsy Program at MNI and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. “For each person there are different answers to those questions which must be identified first in order to provide the best possible tailored treatment for that individual.”
According to the New York Times, studies have shown that when a well-described area in the temporal lobes is identified as the source of the seizures, an average of 60 percent of patients become free of disabling seizures after surgery. At the Institute’s Texas Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, a team of board-certified neurologists and neurosurgeons specializing in epilepsy in both adults and pediatrics perform approximately 175 epilepsy operations per year with a 70 percent success rate. The other 30 percent of individuals see improvement in terms of seizure frequency, but might require a second surgery to be completely seizure-free. Each individual needs specialized care and a dedicated team of specialists committed to finding answers.
“We truly treat all patients that we see like they are part of our family,” said Manish N. Shah, M.D., McGovern Medical School pediatric neurosurgeon with MNI and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. “We work quickly to bring patients into our epilepsy program, lean on our extensive expertise to assess the patients quickly, come up with an optimal treatment plan and deliver it without delay. The change in a patient’s quality of life after the right treatment is absolutely incredible.”
The Texas Comprehensive Epilepsy Program is the leading program in the southwestern United States for the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy in patients of all ages. The program draws upon the combined expertise of the physician team with subspecialty training and experience in treating patients with seizures and epilepsy. Its mission is to help epilepsy patients gain control of their seizures and regain their desired quality of life by applying the most comprehensive diagnostic and treatment methods available.
Please join the Mischer Neuroscience Institute this Saturday by putting on your best purple, and visit our website to learn more about the Texas Comprehensive Epilepsy Program.