Safety in the Home

Epilepsy, Mortality & Risks

20 February 2009
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Epilepsy is often assumed to be a benign condition with a low mortality risk. However, there is increased mortality among people with epilepsy especially those with more difficult forms and among young people. People with epilepsy are more at risk of incurring accidental injuries or even death due to lack of safety precautions and many epilepsy related accidents could be prevented.

Less easy to prevent is the phenomenon of Sudden Unexpected death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) which is a non traumatic, often unwitnessed death in a person with epilepsy who is usually young and otherwise healthy. Reasons for this occurance are unclear but research is underway to attempt to explain it. As with other chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes a small number of people with epilepsy will die prematurely each year.

While causes are unclear there are precautions which can reduce risks of seizures and of SUDEP, which include;

(a) seeking prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment of epilepsy.
(b) taking the correct doses of medication as prescribed, avoiding sudden changes or abrupt withdrawal.
(c) ensuring adequate rest and sleep
(d) avoidance of alcohol
(e) avoiding other known seizure triggers where possible
(f) using safety pillows for those with nocturnal seizures
(g) ensuring others are aware of proper first aid - especially dealing with prolonged seizures correctly

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