If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with epilepsy, you are probably feeling a bit overwhelmed. While this disorder can be a burden, it's important to know that epilepsy has been well studied. Doctors and scientists have made great strides when it comes to finding effective management tactics and treatments. Here's a look at what the treatment will likely entail.
About 70% of patients can keep their epileptic seizures completely under control with medications alone.You might have to try a few medications before you find one that works for you, so be patient. If you experience side effects with a certain drug, let your doctor know. He or she may be able to switch you to a different epilepsy med that does not cause these issues. Which drug your doctor recommends will depend on the nature and frequency of your seizures. Some common epilepsy drugs include:
Clonazepam: This medication is often used for focal, tonic clonic, myoclonic and absence seizures. It needs to be taken once or twice per day, and possible side effects include drowsiness, fatigue, lack of concentration and restlessness. Clonazepam can be used in children and adults.
Oxcarbazepine: Taken two or three times per day, this medication is used for focal and tonic clonic seizures. It can be used in children and adults. Possible side effects include tremors, digestive issues and dizziness.
Piracetam: Used to treat myoclonic seizures, piracetam is only for adults. It needs to be taken 2–3 times per day. Side effects are generally minor and include weight gain, rash and restlessness.
Primidone: This medication is effective for all seizure types, but it is not typically used in children. It is taken twice per day, and has a low risk of side effects, though some patients develop low blood pressure, lethargy, depression, and nausea.
In addition to taking your medications as directed, you will also need to make some lifestyle modifications in order to keep your epilepsy symptoms in check. Your doctor or therapist can work with you to identify conditions that seem to trigger your seizures. Often, this includes certain noises, smells, foods, or emotions. Once your triggers have been identified, you need to take steps to avoid them. This might include:
- Eliminating certain foods from the diet
- Planning meal times to ensure you don't become overly hungry (hunger is a common seizure trigger)
- Using earplugs to block sound when you're in noisy places
- Speaking with a therapist regularly to keep negative emotions like anxiety in check
- Using exercise and meditation to deal with stress
Brain surgery for epilepsy is only used when all other treatment options have failed. The specific surgery recommended will depend on your unique case. Sometimes, removing the portion of the brain that's initiating the seizures is most helpful. Other times, your doctor may recommend surgery to interrupt the nerve pathways that allow the seizure to spread through the brain. A third approach is to implant a special device that stops seizures in their tracks.
The effectiveness of epilepsy surgery is between 50 and 80%. Some patients find that their seizures disappear completely following surgery, while others only experience a reduction in the severity or frequency of their seizures.There are a lot of risks to consider before you commit to the surgery. Some patients suffer neurological consequences like a loss of vision or impaired movement. Others have negative reactions to anesthesia. If your doctor determines that you're a good candidate for epilepsy surgery, he or she will help you weigh these risks against the challenges of continuing to deal with your seizures at their current level. If your doctor recommends surgery, contact a clinic like the Billings Clinic for more information on the procedure.
Being diagnosed with epilepsy is scary, but the more you learn about your treatment options, the more comfortable you'll feel. If you have any questions, be sure to ask your doctor. He or she should be your primary source for information about your epilepsy, especially considering how much variability there is between cases.