What Are the Signs of SUDEP?

Medically Reviewed on 5/25/2022
SUDEP refers to sudden death in people with seizures where no other cause of death can be found.

Because sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) occurs unexpectedly, warning signs of SUDEP are still not clear.

However, some of the signs that can be a warning signal indicating SUDEP include:

What is SUDEP?

Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is defined as sudden, unexpected, witnessed or unwitnessed, non-traumatic, and non-drowning death in people with epilepsy with or without evidence for a seizure, and excluding documented status epilepticus, in which postmortem examination does not reveal a structural or toxicological cause for death.

It refers to sudden death in people with seizures where no other cause of death can be found.

What cause SUDEP?

The exact cause of SUDEP is unknown. Most cases of SUDEP occur during or immediately after a seizure.

Some of the possible factors known to cause SUDEP include:

  • Breathing: A seizure may result in brief pauses in breathing while sleeping, known as apnea. If apnea lasts for a long period, it can reduce the oxygen level in the blood to a perilous level. Additionally, when a person has a convulsive seizure, they may experience an obstruction in the airway, leading to suffocation.
  • Heart rhythm: A seizure may lead to a life-threatening heart rhythm or cardiac arrest.
  • Other causes and mixed causes: SUDEP may occur due to one cause or a combination of causes that involve both breathing difficulty and abnormal heart rhythm. Other causes of SUDEP include:
    • Disturbance in brain circulation
    • Seizure-induced hormone circulation
    • Metabolic changes

9 ways to reduce the risk of SUDEP

Because sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is still a mystery, ways to prevent it are still not completely known. However, you can follow these measures to reduce the risk:

  1. Avoid seizure occurrence. Never miss your antiepileptic medications. If the medication doesn’t work, you can consult your physician and try alternative therapies such as:
    • Corrective surgery to prevent epilepsy
    • Vagus nerve stimulator
    • Ketogenic diet
  2. Always have a healthy diet, get enough exercise, and avoid stress completely. All these measures can keep you calm and positive.
  3. Always be aware of the triggers that can stimulate epilepsy. You can keep the track of triggers by noting them down in a diary. Some things to note in a diary include:
    • Were you ill, tired, stressed, or hungry?
    • Where did the seizure occur?
    • What time of the day did the seizure occur?
  4. Use a seizure alert monitor to alert others if you are having a seizure at night.
  5. Use a heart rate monitor to monitor your heart rate and any abnormalities.
  6. Use a breathing alarm to monitor your breathing rate and any abnormalities.
  7. You must have knowledge of emergency resuscitation measures including cardiopulmonary resuscitation and how to use of a defibrillator.
  8. Avoid drinking excess alcohol.
  9. Get enough sleep.


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Medically Reviewed on 5/25/2022
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