Are Epilepsy Seizures Dangerous?
A person is most at risk of injury if doing something potentially dangerous when a seizure occurs.
Your doctor will recommend guidelines in relation to driving, the use of dangerous machinery, working above ground level and activities such as scuba diving.
Ensuring your seizures are correctly diagnosed, your treatment plan is followed and first-aid information is available will minimise your risks.
Is there a Risk of Dying From Epilepsy?
Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) occurs when a person with epilepsy dies suddenly and prematurely – and no other cause of death is found.
Each year, more than 1 in 1,000 adults and 1 in 4,500 children with epilepsy die from SUDEP. It is the ‘cause’ of around half of all epilepsy-related deaths with the remaining related to drowning, accidents, status epilepticus (a continuous seizure lasting more than 30 minutes), or suicide.
People with poorly controlled seizures are at a greater risk of dying from SUDEP, but we don’t yet know what causes it.
SUDEP occurs most often at night or during sleep when the death is not witnessed, leaving many questions unanswered. Current research into the possible causes of SUDEP focuses on problems with breathing, heart rhythm and brain function that occurs with a seizure. More funded research is needed.
While there is much we don’t know about SUDEP, there are things that can be done to reduce the risks for people with epilepsy.
The most important known way to lessen the risk of SUDEP is for people with epilepsy to try to ensure they have as few seizures as possible (particularly Generalised Tonic-Clonic Seizures).
This can include taking prescribed seizure and/or epilepsy medications consistently, identifying and avoiding seizure triggers, keeping regular appointments with your doctors and considering other epilepsy treatments, such as surgery, when medications are not working to control seizures.
To reduce the risk of non-SUDEP epilepsy-related deaths, we encourage people to be as healthy as they can (diet, exercise, stress-reduction etc.), create a supportive network and be aware of potentially risky situations.
If you or someone you know has suffered a bereavement, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.
Epilepsy Tasmania can help individuals, families, workplaces and schools to create Epilepsy Management Plans and Emergency Medication Managment Plans to help manage seizures.