Treatment Options

When the doctor has made a diagnosis of seizures or epilepsy, the next step is to select the best form of treatment. If the seizure was caused by an underlying correctable brain condition, surgery may stop seizures. If epilepsy -- that is, a continuing tendency to have seizures -- is diagnosed, the doctor will usually prescribe regular use of seizure-preventing medications. If drugs are not successful, other methods may be tried, including surgery, a special diet, complementary therapy or vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). The goal of all epilepsy treatment is to prevent further seizures, avoid side effects, and make it possible for people to lead active lifestyles.

Click here to view all medication assistance programs
In these difficult times, a number of pharmaceuticals have come forward with expanded or new patient assistance programs to help needing seizure medication. (83 KB)

 
There is no cure for epilepsy, yet. Medications do not cure epilepsy in the same sense that penicillin can cure an infection. For many people with epilepsy, however, the medication will prevent seizures as long as they are taken regularly; but, successful drug therapy requires the active cooperation of the patient.

Antiepileptic drugs successfully prevent seizures in at least fifty percent of all patients for substantial periods of time. Another thirty percent enjoy a significant reduction in the number of seizures. Unfortunately, some people continue to have seizures regularly despite taking medication. For them, surgical or, in children, dietary therapy with the ketogenic diet may be helpful. There is also hope that continuing research will produce new drugs and new ways of using them that will eventually give seizure relief to everyone who has epilepsy.

Most epilepsy medicines are taken by mouth. The doctor's choice of which drug to prescribe depends on what kind of seizure a person is having. People react to medicines in different ways. Some experience side effects, others may not. Some people's seizures will respond well to a particular drug while someone else will have seizures that continue. It may take some time to find exactly the right dose of the right drug for each person with epilepsy.

Whenever possible, doctors try to prevent seizures with a single medication. This is called monotherapy. However, some people may require polytherapy, the use of more than one medication to achieve seizure control. When selecting a drug, your doctor will consider the type of seizures you have. Not all medications work for all types of seizures.

Like all drugs, epilepsy medicines have side effects. Some are dose-related, and become more likely as the dose increases.
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