Safety, ease of use and general absence of severe side effects allows tDCS to be done at home. Not only does this significantly reduces costs, it increases accessibility to treatment, the option of longer treatment protocols and continuity of treatment is more easily maintained. We do however recommend that our devices only be used under the guidance of a licensed healthcare professional.

Risks

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation or tDCS is a safe technique. But there are some small risks, which are described below. These risks are based on a review[1] of 567 tDCS sessions and from questionnaire responses from 102 participants:

1. Tingling

The most common report – by 70% of participants – is that of a tingling sensation under the electrodes. This is present during and shortly after the period of stimulation, and has no adverse effects or risks. A small proportion of participants report this sensation as burning (22%) or painful (18%), although they scored the burning or painful sensation as quite mild (under 2 on a 5-point scale from none to intense).

2. Fatigue

The next common report – by 35% of participants – was of tiredness during the stimulation, and 25% reported this continued afterwards. The authors of the study suggest this may be due to the prolonged and uninteresting tasks the participants were doing.

3. Headache

Less than 10% of participants reported a headache after the stimulation. Such headaches are usually mild and can be treated with normal over-the-counter painkillers, if required. There is no evidence that tDCS leads to any change in frequency or severity of headaches.

4. Seizures

tDCS has the potential to excite the brain and induce brief seizures. These seizures are related to epileptic seizures but are short-lasting localised fits rather than grand mal epileptic seizures. They can be confused with syncope – a temporary faint or swoon – induced by anxiety. The risk of a seizure is very low, there have been no reported incidences according to the authors (0%).

Some people, especially those with a history of epilepsy, may be prone to have a seizure related to an epileptic fit. It is therefore important that you, or if you or anyone in your immediate family has ever had a seizure, do this under strict medical guidance.

5. Mood changes

People with bipolar or other psychiatric disorders should do this under strict medical guidance. Cases of hypomanic episodes after tDCS were documented[2].

6. Nausea

Certain electrode positions, specifically those close to the mastoid process, can influence the vestibular system and cause nausea and vertigo.

7. Metal devices and implants

As tDCS uses an electric current it is very important that you do not use this therapy if you have any metal devices such as cochlea implants or cardiac pacemakers. Metal implants in the head (excluding standard orthodontic braces, fillings etc) would also exclude you from tDCS therapy.

8. Children

Due to the absense of studies, very little is known about the long term effects of tDCS on developping brains.

References:
[1] Poreisz C, Boros K, Antal A, Paulus W: Safety aspects of tDCS concerning healthy subjects and patients. Brain Res Bull 2007, 72: 208-214.
[2] Galvez V, Alonzo A, Martin D, Mitchell PB, Sachdev P, Loo CK: Hypomania induction in a patient with bipolar II disorder by tDCS. J ECT. 2011 Sep;27(3):256-8.

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Important

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