Emerging tech that helps support people with epilepsy

By on December 7, 2015

Individuals struggling with any form of epilepsy will tell you that having a seizure can be a terrifying experience. There are almost three million people in the U.S. with active epilepsy and medication cannot always effectively control the condition.

Scientists are working on methods to predict seizures, looking at tools that detect abnormal brain activity and changes in heart rate and breathing. From this research, new technologies designed to help improve the lives of those with epilepsy are emerging. We explore what’s here today and what’s on the horizon, looking at some of the amazing strides that have been made in helping those with epilepsy.

Understanding patterns of events and potential causal links is vital to medical research, and there are several smartphone apps that can be used to record and track seizure activity. Seizure Tracker provides a straightforward calendar interface for people with epilepsy and their caregivers to log seizures, medical appointments and medication schedules. The app generates simple and customized reports that include graphical comparisons between the number and severity of seizures and medication dosages.

Developed in partnership with the Epilepsy Foundation, My Epilepsy Diary is another self-management app that helps keep records, generate reminders and enables users to make notes about seizure-related areas. The app also features excellent reporting capabilities, allowing for users to print their own reports or have them sent to health care teams.

Devices that aim to predict seizures are still not proven. However, wearable devices are coming to market that can immediately alert friends and caregivers when a person with epilepsy needs help. One device that has generated a lot of interest is the Embrace watch epilepsy monitor (not yet FDA approved). With Bluetooth linked to the wearer’s smartphone, this sleek bracelet’s electrodes pass a tiny current through the wearer’s skin and measure sweat gland stimulation. The band will first vibrate to give the wearer a chance to indicate if it’s a false alarm if activity that may suggest a seizure is detected. If there’s no user intervention, the smartphone sends an alert call and/or SMS to a pre-set list of people.

The SmartWatch has been around for some time – as the name suggests, it’s a wristwatch that continuously monitors movement. If the watch detects a repeated irregular shaking motion, it will alert caregivers, utilizing GPS to include the physical location of the wearer. The person with epilepsy can also call for help with a single push of a button.

Children under two years of age are particularly vulnerable to epilepsy and must be constantly watched, so a child’s bedtime can be the start of another sleepless night for parents and caregivers. Winner of the first annual Shark Tank competition, the SAMi sleep activity monitor was created by parents to detect unusual night-time movement from their child. Featuring a wireless video camera with infrared illuminators, SAMi provides parents with quality images, even in total darkness. The camera links to a smart mobile device running the free SAMi app. The app can be customized to sound an alarm if it detects ‘qualified’ events, and the live video and audio feed means parents and caregivers can see immediately if something is wrong and quickly take action.

The Epilepsy Foundation is encouraging those with epilepsy to find out as much as they can about the condition for better management of seizures. Follow the Epilepsy Foundation and share #DareTo Go the Distance to find out more.