What Do You Die From If You Have Epilepsy?

People with epilepsy are more likely to die early. The risk compared to the general population is 1.5-3 times higher. But what are the causes of death?  Why do they die earlier?


The Study

Researchers from the University College London tried to find the answer. They conducted a prospective, community-based cohort study that included 558 people with recurrent unprovoked seizures. 34% of the participants died during 25 years of follow-up.


The Results

Most common not-epilepsy-related causes of death (60% of deaths):

• Stroke and other cerebrovascular disease

• Heart attack and other cardiovascular disease

• Tumor (noncerebral neoplasm)


Most common epilepsy-related causes of death (23% of deaths):

• Sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (3%)

Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) is likely the most common disease-related cause of death in with epilepsy. It’s more likely that the cause of death is related to epilepsy if the death occurs in the first 2 years after the first seizure.


Other diseases that increase the risk of premature death in epilepsy

• Tumor (primary cerebral and noncerebral neoplasm)

• Certain neurologic diseases

• Substance abuse


The conclusion

“Comorbid diseases are important causes of death, as well as predictors of premature mortality in epilepsy. There is an especially strong relationship between cause of death and epilepsy etiology in the first 2 years after the index seizure. Addressing these issues may help stem the tide of premature mortality in epilepsy.” The researchers say.