The Silent Issue: Can seizures be fatal?

By Dr. Locatelli

In the wake of the tragic death of Jett Travolta, many of my patients have come to me with overwhelming concern over their own mortalities. This is a topic that people are uncomfortable talking about but one that is necessary for peace of mind.

It is true that people with epilepsy have a mortality rate two to three times that of the general populationHowever, the life expectancy of people with epilepsy is the same as for anyone else, especially if that person is otherwise healthy. In general, seizures are not usually fatal.

If you are a person who suffers from tonic-clonic seizures, it is most important to alert those around you of your condition so that the proper assistance can be administered if needed. If a tonic-clonic seizure is not stopped within 30 minutes, it may cause permanent injury or death. People with epilepsy can also die from inhaling vomit during or after a seizure. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, if someone is experiencing a tonic-clonic seizure, turn them on their side when the seizure begins to ensure that the vomit comes out of the mouth.

If you are a person who is not seizure free, you must always take safety precautions with activities such as swimming or showering to avoid fatal accidents. The key to controlling your seizures is to be proactive with your care. Always be under the supervision of a neurologist. If you are compliant with your medications and do not abuse your body with excessive alcohol, smoking, or lack of sleep, you should be able to control your seizures and live a long, healthy life.

If you are experiencing seizures often and are not getting relief from your current treatment, we urge you to contact your neurologist for follow up. Sometimes, medications will stop doing their job, but that doesn’t mean another medication or combination of medications will not work. For many patients, all we need to do is make a small revision to the dosage of your current medication.

Stay proactive and compliant, and you can live a very long life. As always, if you have a question or a comment, leave it here so we can dialogue and learn from each other.

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