Most people with epilepsy live a full lifetime. However, some serious health risks are related to epilepsy, including the risk of premature death. Discuss health risks with your primary care physician and neurologist. Ask if you should be concerned and whether you have any of the risk factors related to SUDEP.
SUDEP is defined as Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy that occurs during normal activity (often during sleep), with or without a seizure.
SUDEP is the sudden, unexpected death of someone with epilepsy, who was otherwise healthy. In SUDEP cases, no other cause of death is found when an autopsy is done. Each year, about 1 in 1,000 adults and 1 in 4,500 children with epilepsy die from SUDEP. This is the leading cause of death in people with uncontrolled seizures.
The person with epilepsy is often found dead in bed and doesn’t appear to have had a convulsive seizure. About a third of them do show evidence of a seizure close to the time of death. They are often found lying face down. No one is sure about the cause of death in SUDEP. Some researchers think that a seizure causes an irregular heart rhythm. More recent studies have suggested that the person may suffocate from impaired breathing, fluid in the lungs, and being face down on the bedding.