- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Primary Information about Epilepsy Treatments and Management
Epilepsy Treatments Explained
The first step toward treatments for epilepsy is diagnosing the condition as epilepsy and not seizures related to other non-epileptic health issues. An accurate diagnosis is vital in choosing the treatment that is most effective. It may take a few weeks or months to find a treatment and/or management program that works.
Medications, surgery, diet, and special devices to stimulate the vagus nerve have shown to be effective for reducing or stopping seizures.
See my hub , Basic Facts and Figures about Epilepsy and Seizures to learn more about the condition.
Some of the common epilepsy treatments include anti-seizure medications. There are currently 20 different medications used to treat epilepsy. Dosages are crucial to how well a medication prevents seizures.
Most seizures can be controlled with one drug at the proper dosage. Dosing may change during the first phase of this treatment as the body adjusts to the medication. It often takes several months to reach the required dose for controlling seizures.
Side effects are part of taking any medication, including anti-seizure medications. These side effects will be discussed in future hubs.
Some individuals can manage their epilepsy with a special diet. This is called a ketogenic diet and it involves consuming high fats and few carbohydrates. This diet is also used for people whose epilepsy cannot be controlled by medication or by any other method.
It’s a challenge to maintain a ketogenic diet as it requires strict adherence in order to be effective. The list of foods that are used for this diet are limited in range. The diet may also cause side effects that will be discussed in another hub.
Have you ever had a seizure or seen someone have one?
Surgical options are less common, but may be necessary in some cases to reduce or stop the seizure activity. There are requirements that must be met before a surgeon will perform brain surgery for epilepsy.
An MRI is used to locate the area(s) of the brain affected by the seizures. For instance, if seizures start in one area, they will focus on that area to prevent this abnormal brain activity. Surgery always comes with risk and can cause future problems for some patients.
Devices that stimulate the vagus nerve has helped some people with epilepsy who cannot control their seizures with medication or diet. The vagus nerve stimulator has only been used since 1997 when the FDA approved it for the treatment of epilepsy.
The device is implanted underneath the skin in the chest and is then attached to the vagus nerve found in the lower part of the neck. It releases short bursts of electrical current from the vagus nerve to the brain. Medications are not usually stopped for this treatment, but used in conjunction with it. This treatment has been found to reduce seizures by around 20-40 percent.
MainMD Video on Epilepsy
Alternative medicine deserves its own hub, and it will get it soon. However, for this hub it’s being mentioned along with all types of epilepsy treatments used today.
Vitamins for deficiencies, herbal remedies, meditation, yoga, biofeedback, self-control, chiropractic, and acupuncture are used as standalone as well as complimentary treatments with conventional medicine to treat, reduce, or stop seizures caused by epilepsy.
Epilepsy: Future Technology
What does the future hold for individuals with epilepsy? Advanced technology may be opening the door to finding effective treatments for epilepsy. The currently known primary technology is related to pacemakers. While this is in its experimental stage, it shows promise.
Yes. Just like they use pacemakers to stabilize the heart rate, they are studying how similar technology will work for epilepsy. The process includes a minimally invasive, MRI-guided laser ablation surgery to place the pacemaker.
Stereotactic radiosurgery is another potential future epilepsy treatment in its research phase. The process would involve direct radiation to the specific area where the seizure activity is happening in the brain.
Epilepsy: Hope on the Horizon
There is no cure for epilepsy. Treatment options will vary between individuals and their needs. Great strides have been made over the past 20 years regarding the treatment of epilepsy. One never knows what the future holds for those who suffer with this chronic health condition. There is always hope.
Please see my hub, My Life with Epilepsy - Part I - Tremors and Secrets.