Epilepsy | Complications

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What are the health risks associated with epilepsy?

Epilepsy can increase your risk of injury or other problems, including the following:

  • Pregnancy complications: Uncontrolled seizures can affect the unborn baby. Epilepsy medicine may also affect the unborn baby. Decisions about taking medicine during pregnancy must be made by you and your doctor, after talking about the risks and the benefits.
  • Injury: You can injure yourself during a seizure, or when a seizure causes you to fall, drown while swimming or bathing, or have a car accident. Laws about driving for people with epilepsy are different in each state. Ask your local epilepsy foundation about driving rules or ask your doctor.
  • Emotional issues: People who have epilepsy are more likely to experience depression, mood disorders, and suicidal thoughts. Talk to your doctor if you think you might be depressed, or if you have thoughts about harming yourself.
  • Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP): People who have epilepsy have a small risk of unexpected death, especially people who have frequent seizures that don’t respond to medicine. Doctors don’t know exactly why SUDEP occurs, but it is thought to be the result of breathing or heart problems.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 09/94

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