High-tech epilepsy warning device could save lives
Smartwatches are gaining popularity, and they often help users monitor their health in different ways, such as by recording sleeping habits or heart rates.
A new seizure-detecting device, the Nightwatch, goes a crucial step further and can alert caregivers to severe nighttime seizures.
The researchers, who published their results in the journal Neurology, believe that this bracelet could be a vital tool for people with epilepsy.
Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is the leading cause of death in those with the condition. The risks of death are even higher in people who have therapy-resistant epilepsy and an intellectual disability.
The research team, based in the Netherlands, tested the Nightwatch with 28 intellectually disabled participants who have epilepsy.
While epilepsy involves seizures, not everyone who has experienced a seizure has the condition.
Instead, epilepsy is defined as a chronic, ongoing disorder hallmarked by recurrent and unprovoked seizures.
There are a number of types of epilepsy, defined by several factors.
When making a diagnosis, a neurologist will take into account what types of seizures the person experiences, how old they were when the seizures began, what part of the brain is involved, and what patterns can be detected, among other considerations.
Epilepsy is not always fatal, but those with this neurological disorder are at risk, in some cases. The leading cause of epilepsy-related death, as mentioned above, is SUDEP.
Following SUDEP, the body is often found in bed. In only a third of cases, there is evidence that the person experienced a seizure close to the time of death. Also, the body is frequently found facedown, which leads researchers to consider that suffocation may be involved.
There are a number of risk factors for SUDEP, including being aged 20–40, experiencing seizures at night, and having epilepsy that began during childhood.
In addition, those who have poorly controlled epilepsy are at much greater risk than those who do not, including patients that do not take their medication as scheduled. Also at increased risk are those with therapy-resistant epilepsy.
The Nightwatch may be a valuable tool for people at risk of SUDEP, and it could make a resounding difference for epilepsy patients, their caregivers, and their families.
The research leader, professor and neurologist Dr. Johan Arends, says that the device may reduce the number of SUDEP incidences by two-thirds.
However, he notes that this figure will depend on how quickly carers respond to the sounded alerts. If the device finds its way around the globe, it may help save thousands of lives.
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