Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP)

Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is extremely rare and affects only around 500 people in Britain every year. More people die from falling down the stairs than they do from SUDEP.

Although little is known about SUDEP, research has shown that it is usually associated with a tonic clonic seizure, as part of the brain that controls respiration may be affected, causing breathing to stop.

There are certain factors which can increase the risk of SUDEP:

  • Having generalised tonic-clonic seizures
  • Having poorly controlled seizures
  • Having seizures at night or in bed
  • Having seizures when on your own
  • Frequent and abrupt changes to medication
  • Not taking medication as prescribed
  • Drinking lots of alcohol

Research has shown there is a higher incidence of SUDEP in men.

Reducing the risk of SUDEP

The best way is to try to minimise the number of seizures by taking medication as prescribed, but also by explaining to friends and family what to do if you have a seizure; avoiding specific seizure triggers and looking at your living options if you're moving out of home.

SUDEP is very rare and extremely unlikely to happen to you, however it is important that you are aware of it and that you look after yourself or your child.

Download our SUDEP information sheet

NB Young Epilepsy are currently reviewing our information portfolio which will be updated in October 2023.

Also in this section

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Epilepsy & pregnancy

Some medication can have an effect on the development of the baby so it's important that you discuss planning a pregnancy with your consultant, epilepsy nurse or GP

Causes of epilepsy

The causes of epilepsy generally falls into three groups; genetic, structural/metabolic or unknown

Diagnosing epilepsy

Getting a diagnosis of epilepsy can often take some time. Only until there have been two or more seizures that a diagnosis of epilepsy will be considered

Epilepsy treatment

The main aim of treating epilepsy is to improve the person's quality of life by preventing seizures but also causing minimum side effects

Epilepsy seizures

An epileptic seizure happens because of a disruption of the electrical activity in the brain

Epilepsy syndromes

A syndrome is a group of signs and symptoms which, if they occur together, can suggest a particular condition