Epilepsy Center

Epilepsy Treatment

Epilepsy treatment
There a variety of techniques that can be used to control epileptic seizures, but it is important to remember that there is no cure for epilepsy.  However, effective treatment can decrease seizure frequency and strength, or may leave you free of seizures.  As with any medical decision, your doctor's advice, medical history, and tests are important to determine the best course of treatment. 

Avoid triggers
It is very important that epileptic triggers be avoided.  Aside from lack of sleep, stress and alcohol consumption, unexpected or repetitive or uncomfortable stimuli might trigger seizures.  Repetitive flashing light (stroboscope) or inadequate screen frequency, sudden auditive stimulus (siren, or sudden yelling after silence), inadequate environmental temperature for longer period might trigger seizures are all environmental factors that should be avoided. 

Approximately 66% of children are responsive to a ketogenic diet, which is a high fat and low carbohydrate diet, which may even go as far as preventing seizures.  However, because the diet requires strict adherence, it does require a high amount of discipline to maintain.

Excessive alcohol consumption, stress, and lack of sleep have all been linked to an increase in seizures.  Talk with your doctor to determine your susceptibility.  

Pharmaceutical drugs are widely prescribed for epilepsy, and have shown results for most people.  In fact, many children and adults can eventually stop taking medications and live a life without seizures.   One or more types of drugs may be prescribed, depending on the types of epilepsy diagnosed. 

Currently, more than 20 different drugs for epilepsy are now available and prescribed by doctors. Your doctor may prescribe one or several of the drugs listed below, which are grouped together according to need.  Newer drugs for epilepsy include:

  • Diazepam (used for severe seizures that occur repeatedly)
  • Ethosuximide (used for absence seizures)
  • Felbamate
  • Fosphenytoi (used only in a hospital setting)
  • Gabapentin
  • Levetiracetam
  • Tiagabine
  • Topiramate

Unless the type of epilepsy is known and requiring a different type of medication, patients who have recently been diagnosed with epilepsy may take: 

  • Carbamazepine
  • Lamotrigine
  • Oxcarbazepine
  • Phenytoin
  • Valproate

Do not alter your medication without consulting your doctor.  Your doctor may start with a low dosage, which is increased until symptoms decrease.  Some drugs may have serious side affects for the developing child during pregnancy, so work closely with your doctor if you are pregnant or are intending to become pregnant.  If medicines do not work effectively, your doctor may recommend surgery (including implanted devices). 

If doctors determine that seizures are triggered by a specific part of the brain (diagnosed via SPECT test), surgery is performed to possibly remove that part of the brain.  However, this is less likely if doctors cannot determine a specific part of the brain that causes the seizures or if the part of the brain is essential for normal life functions.  Even with surgery, medication may be prescribed, though in a lower dosage. 

Vagus nerve stimulation
This procedure involves a device, implanted into the chest, with wires that attach to the vagus nerve in the neck.  The vagus nerve stimulator sends electrical impulses to the vagus nerve every several minutes, leading to an average reduction in seizures of 20-40%.  Medication may still be prescribed, although it may be in lower dosage.    

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