Can you die from epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a dangerous neurological disease, potentially fatal. A seizure by itself can be fatal. The risk of death increases from complications of seizures: falls, road accidents. Specific treatment helps to protect against adverse outcomes.

Answering the question: “can a person die from an epileptic seizure?” Of course, subject to the necessary safety precautions and certain restrictions.

Causes of death in epilepsy

Can you die from an epileptic seizure? Alas, yes. However, as a rule, the cause of death is not the seizure attack itself, but the factors accompanying it. Also dangerous are diseases that appear in connection with long-term treatment of epileptic seizures.

According to statistics, death is more likely to overtake those who have been living with the disease for many years than those who have just become ill and who have quickly started treatment.

Acute situations

Common causes of death in epileptic seizures:

  • falls – on the street, from steps, etc.;
  • head trauma – subdural hematoma, hemorrhage;
  • life-threatening fractures of the cervical spine, fracture of the ribs at the time of the attack;
  • burns when a seizure occurs at the stove;
  • industrial accidents;
  • road traffic accidents when a seizure occurs in a driver or pedestrian;
  • aspiration pneumonia – ingestion of foreign masses in the respiratory tract with spasm of the respiratory muscles.

Such situations and phenomena can lead to the sudden, sudden death of a person with epilepsy.

Chronic phenomena – causes of death of epileptics

There are reasons from another category, the effect on the occurrence of which is exerted by the epileptic syndrome itself:

  • hypoxia, due to which the brain temporarily stops working, which regularly leads to the death of neurons;
  • stroke;
  • CNS infections that provoke the development of epilepsy;
  • exacerbation of autoimmune diseases;
  • negative effects of anticonvulsants, often exacerbate cardiovascular diseases;
  • arterial hypertension;
  • type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome;
  • sleep apnea;
  • sudden death syndrome;
  • unsuccessful brain surgery or complications after anesthesia;
  • neurodegenerative phenomena – parkinsonism, Alzheimer’s.

Causes of death indirectly associated with pathology

In a number of patients, epileptic seizures trigger the following disorders:

  • progressive brain atrophy – dementia;
  • psychiatric illnesses;
  • severe depression caused by alienation from society, inability to work and earn money, discrimination, personality change.

People who have such pathological situations are prone to suicidal attempts. Sometimes successful.

Death Threatening Situations for Epileptics

Among the variety of factors that are dangerous in terms of death in case of epilepsy, the following are considered statistically dangerous:

Status epilepticus

This is the name of a condition where a severe attack lasts more than 30 minutes. During this time, the patient does not regain consciousness, may die from respiratory arrest and cardiac disorders. When faced with such a situation, it is necessary to immediately take a person to the hospital, since he needs the help of resuscitators, otherwise the brain will die. Children and people over 60 are prone to status epilepticus. To prevent this, it is necessary to follow all the recommendations of the attending physician, to take the medicine on time.


Epileptics should not drink. Especially if the disease of the symptomatic type is acquired due to alcoholism or brain injury. First, an excess of alcohol in the blood or a sharp exit from a binge provoke extraordinary attacks against the background of general intoxication. Secondly, anticonvulsants in combination with alcohol provoke atrophy of the cells of the cerebral cortex. Canceling the medication before the party is also not an option, since the drugs are not eliminated from the body so quickly, or skipping them can trigger the onset of an attack.

Sudden death syndrome

This is how doctors call cases when, after an autopsy, it is not possible to determine exactly what a person died from. Typical for patients with tonic-clonic seizures. According to statistics, this diagnosis is made by 1 in 25 epileptics who died in their youth. A number of scientists are inclined to believe that the death of a person occurs due to the fact that during seizures, the brain temporarily changes its functions, as a result of which breathing and heart stops.

Death during an attack

Do people die from epileptic seizures? The honest answer is yes. However, this does not mean that every patient will end their life during a seizure.

In order for life to end in this way, a certain set of circumstances is necessary:

  • potentially fatal injury from a fall or convulsions in generalized epilepsy;
  • Prolonged oxygen starvation. During an attack, a spasm of the respiratory muscles makes it impossible for the patient to inhale. Usually, breathing is interrupted for 5-20 seconds, which does not have time to cause severe harm. However, with status epilepticus, a prolonged cessation of breathing is possible due to which irreparable damage is caused to the brain.
  • With alcoholic intoxication, the chance not to come out alive from an attack increases significantly. Because the brain experiences both over-excitement and intoxication at the same time.
  • Vomiting, large amounts of saliva and foam are also deadly. After all, if the head is in the wrong position, the patient will simply choke.

Also, in some cases, attacks of the disease may occur, which develop in the body regardless of epilepsy.

Who is at risk?

Death from epilepsy, according to statistics, is characteristic of people with a low socio-economic status.

Patients at risk are less likely to seek help, late, and are more likely to get sick with an acquired, more dangerous form of the disease.

Other causes of death from epilepsy include, in the forefront, the combination of convulsive syndrome with mental disorders. Such a “tandem” serves as a provocateur of suicidal tendencies.

People with epileptic seizures are 3 times more likely to commit suicide than others. Former suicides are 5 times more likely to have seizures of acquired epilepsy than others.

Also, according to statistics, the risk group includes:

  • patients with more than 15 years of “experience”;
  • young people who developed severe seizure syndrome before age 16;
  • men.

In this case, both the logical causes of death in such a diagnosis are taken into account, as well as those in which the patients themselves are to blame.

For example, a fatal outcome in an accident, where one of the drivers was a person with a sudden epileptic seizure.

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