Menu

What to Know About Seizure Alert Devices

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 29, 2021

A seizure alert device, also known as a seizure alarm or seizure monitor, is an electronic device that can detect seizures if you have a condition like epilepsy. It can alert your caretakers when you are having a seizure, but it does not prevent seizures from happening.

Why People Use Seizure Monitors

Seizures are an episode of abnormal brain activity that can cause stiffness, twitching movements, convulsions, or limpness. They can also cause temporary changes in your state of consciousness and behavior, and how you experience sensations.

Some seizures are random events caused by medication or an accident. However, if you have multiple seizures that reoccur over time, you may be diagnosed with epilepsy.

Risks of seizures include:

  • Falling down and injuring yourself while having a seizure
  • Drowning, if you have a seizure while in a bath or swimming pool
  • Getting into a car accident if you are driving when you have a seizure
  • Getting status epilepticus, a condition that occurs if your seizure lasts more than 5 minutes that can cause brain damage
  • Getting sudden death in epilepsy (SUDEP), a rare condition in which people with epilepsy die suddenly during a seizure, believed to be caused by heart or breathing problems

Because of these risks, it can be important for people with epilepsy to alert someone quickly when they are having a seizure. A seizure alert device can help.

For some people with epilepsy, using such a device can allow them to have more freedom and less fear of having a seizure.

What Are the Downsides of Seizure Alert Devices?

Seizure alert devices may not work for all people with epilepsy. Many of them work by detecting abnormal movement. If your seizures do not involve trembling or convulsions, then the devices available today may not be a good fit.

However, doctors are doing more research to improve these devices and create more options. If there is not a device that works for you, there may be one in the future.

Some seizure alert devices cost a few hundred dollars. This can be prohibitive for some people.

There are some organizations which have grant programs to help people with epilepsy cover the costs. Some insurance companies may also help to cover the cost of seizure alert devices.

Types of Seizure Alert Devices

Most seizure alert devices involve non-invasive wearable or non-wearable technology that monitors your movements and relays information to a smartphone application. Many non-invasive options are geared towards night-time monitoring for parents of children with epilepsy.

Types of non-invasive seizure alarms include:

  • A pad that goes under the mattress to detect unusual movements during sleep. If unusual movement is detected, an alarm sounds.
  • A camera that sends a feed to your smartphone and analyzes the video for any unusual movements during sleep. If it detects any unusual movement, it automatically records what is happening and sends an alert to your phone.
  • Some pulse-oximeters — devices that can be worn on a finger that measure heart rate and blood oxygen levels — can also send an alert to your smartphone if significant changes are detected, which may happen during a seizure.
  • Some companies make smartwatches specifically for people with seizures. These usually record movement and relay information to a smartphone app.
  • A non-invasive monitoring device that can be attached to the lower part of the bicep to continuously monitor the part of the brain that controls the body's voluntary movements.

How to Choose a Seizure Alert Device

You will need to work with your doctor to find out which device is right for you. The factors that go into choosing a device include:

  • What type of seizures the device can pick up and what type of seizures you have
  • How accurate the device is at detecting seizures
  • How comfortable the device will be to use on a day-to-day basis
  • Whether the device may give a false alarm
  • Your budget

Seizure Response Service Dogs

Another option for people with epilepsy is a seizure response dog or a seizure alert dog. This is a trained service animal who can help if you have a seizure. More research is needed to find out if service dogs can actually predict when you will have a seizure.

However, they can be trained to go get someone else to help you if you are having a seizure. They can also help to keep you safe when you are having one by preventing you from doing something dangerous while having a seizure or trying to wake you up if you become unconscious.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Danny Did Foundation: "DEVICES & TECHNOLOGY."

Epilepsia: "Seizure detection at home: Do devices on the market match the needs of people living with epilepsy and their caregivers?"

Epilepsy Foundation: "Alert Devices and Aids."

Epilepsy Foundation: "Seizure Dogs: Q&A," "The Role of Seizure Alerts."

Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Types of Seizures."

Mayo Clinic: "Epilepsy."

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.