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Understanding and Managing The Risks Of Epilepsy

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Living with epilepsy can be challenging, especially when it comes to managing the risks associated with this condition. From seizures to side effects of medication, there are different factors that can pose a risk to the safety of somebody with epilepsy.

However, with proper understanding and preparation, many of these risks can be reduced or avoided altogether. In this blog post, we will look at some of the common risks associated with epilepsy and provide helpful tips on how to prevent them. 

Not all the following risks will apply to each person with epilepsy. Still, it is good to know the risks so you can prepare for them.


Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is the sudden unexplained death of someone with epilepsy. SUDEP is uncommon, affecting around 1 in 1000 adults with epilepsy each year. The causes are not clear, but there are links between SUDEP and uncontrolled tonic-clonic seizures. The more often a person has seizures, the more at risk they are of SUDEP. 

Managing the Risk

One way to reduce the risk of SUDEP is to manage and reduce seizures. For most people, this will involve anti-seizure medication. Others may opt for lifestyle changes or alternative therapies. There are various approaches available to help you effectively manage your epilepsy. 

If you take anti-seizure medication, take it regularly, as prescribed by your doctor. Missed medication can trigger seizures even in people with well-controlled epilepsy. Other triggers may include lack of sleep, stress, a poor diet or dependence on alcohol. 

Accidents and injuries

A seizure on its own generally does not cause any damage or injury to a person. Some people, though, may experience injuries as a result of a seizure. This is particularly common during tonic-clonic seizures. This type of seizure causes a person to lose consciousness and often leads to a fall. The most common reports of injury are minor, such as cuts and bruises. More serious injuries include head trauma or broken bones.

Managing the Risk

Controlling your seizures properly can help keep you safe from accidents or injuries. You can also put in place safety measures in the case of a tonic-clonic seizure. Some safety measures are noted in our article How To Manage Epilepsy as a University Student

Epilepsy Action also provides Practical advice on staying safe around the home. Using epilepsy alarms and monitors can help reduce risks, especially if you have seizures during the night or live alone.

Mood and behaviour

Some patients with epilepsy experience problems with their mental capacities. This may include depression or anxiety, difficulty concentrating or loss of memory. The cause of these conditions may be due to, in part, anti-seizure medication. Anti-seizure medication targets activity in the brain and thus may affect the way you think or behave. Some types of anti-seizure medication help to improve mood, while others can make your mood worse. 

Managing the Risk

Sometimes only small changes are needed to boost a person’s mood. Try to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and have a good sleeping schedule. In more serious cases, professional help may be necessary. 

If you or a close friend is having trouble with anxiety or depression, consider reaching out to charities like Mind and Samaritans for free advice and support. 

Bone Health

People who have epilepsy are more likely to have problems with their bones, such as osteoporosis. This condition causes weakness in the bones, making them fragile. As a result, fragile bones can lead to more fractures and breaks. This can be particularly worrying for somebody prone to falling during a seizure. 

Managing the Risk

A well-balanced diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin D is a great way of protecting bone health.** Royal Osteoporosis Society states “Bones stay strong if you give them work to do”. Weight-bearing exercises are the most beneficial for maintaining bone strength. Epilepsy Society suggests a few ideas to help you start exercising safely.

By making small changes to reduce the risks of epilepsy, you can still do the things you enjoy. If you feel concerned or worried about your epilepsy, please reach out to one of the following helplines. 

  • Young Epilepsy supports children and young people throughout school, college, and university

** Speak to your epilepsy specialist or GP before making any major changes to your diet. 

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