Having a seizure at certain times can lead to circumstances that are dangerous to yourself or others.

  • Falling. If you fall during a seizure, you can injure your head or break a bone.
  • Drowning. If you have epilepsy, you're 15 to 19 times more likely to drown while swimming or bathing than is the rest of the population because of the possibility of having a seizure while in the water.
  • Car accidents. A seizure that causes either loss of awareness or control can be dangerous if you're driving a car or operating other equipment.

    Many states have driver's-licensing restrictions related to your ability to control seizures and impose a minimum amount of time that you've been seizure-free, ranging from months to years, before you're allowed to drive.

  • Pregnancy complications. Seizures during pregnancy pose dangers to both mother and baby, and certain anti-epileptic medications increase the risk of birth defects. If you have epilepsy and you're considering becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor as you plan your pregnancy.

    Most women with epilepsy can become pregnant and have a healthy baby. You'll need to be carefully monitored throughout pregnancy, and medications may need to be adjusted. It's very important that you work with your doctor to plan your pregnancy.

  • Emotional health issues. People with epilepsy are more likely to have psychological problems, especially depression, anxiety and, in extreme cases, suicide. Problems may be a result of difficulties from dealing with the condition itself as well as medication side effects.

Other life-threatening complications from epilepsy are uncommon, but do occur.

  • Status epilepticus. This condition occurs if you're in a state of continuous seizure activity lasting more than five minutes, or if you have frequent recurrent seizures without regaining full consciousness in between them. People with status epilepticus have an increased risk of permanent brain damage and death.
  • Sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP). People with epilepsy also have a small risk of sudden unexplained death. The cause is unknown, but some research shows it may occur due to heart or respiratory conditions.

    People with frequent generalized tonic-clonic seizures or people whose seizures aren't controlled by medications may be at higher risk of SUDEP. Overall, about 2 to 18 percent of people with epilepsy die of SUDEP.

May. 31, 2013

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