Preventing seizures is critically important for epilepsy patients. When seizure activity is not well controlled and patients continue to experience seizures, they are at a greater risk of many complications. The most serious complications include injuries and dying from seizures. One risk from uncontrolled seizure activity is called Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). It is one of the most common causes of death in epilepsy patients.
SUDEP refers to the sudden and unexpected death of an epilepsy patient, when the exact cause of death is unknown. Patients who die from SUDEP are otherwise healthy, and their autopsies do not identify other causes of death. Studies suggest that approximately one in 1,000 people with epilepsy will die from SUDEP each year. It is the leading cause of death in people with epilepsy who have uncontrolled seizures.
The best way to prevent SUDEP is to lower your risk by controlling your seizures. Different treatments work for different types of epilepsy, so having the correct diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan is essential. Research indicates that people who experience convulsive seizures may be at a higher risk for SUDEP.
Today, most people living with epilepsy are able to control their seizures with medication or other treatments and by avoiding certain triggers. An epilepsy specialist can work with you to determine the best course of action to keep seizure activity under control. Patients with the most severe types of epilepsy may have a more difficult time controlling their seizures. Reducing their risk of SUDEP may require additional steps, including epilepsy surgery, neuro-stimulation devices or dietary therapies. Some patients may be eligible to participate in research studies aimed at finding new, more effective therapies.
Epileptologist Dr. Samden Lhatoo, director, Texas Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, UTHealth Neurosciences, who is affiliated with Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, discusses new research for SUDEP with preventive measures and minimally invasive surgeries.
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