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Epilepsy Health Center

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Epilepsy Drugs for Children

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There are a wide number of medications available for treating epilepsy in children, and advances in the past years have made a difference. In fact, nine new drugs have become available in the last decade, says William R. Turk, MD, Chief of the Neurology Division at the Nemours Children's Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.

But that doesn't mean the newest drug for epilepsy is the best. Turk says that while new medications have helped, there's no single miracle cure responsible for the improvements in treating epilepsy. Instead, doctors are getting better at fine-tuning treatment for each child using new and older drugs. There isn't one right medicine.

There are more than 20 medications used to treat seizures. Only some of these have been approved by the FDA for use in children. Legally, your doctor may prescribe any of the drugs. Still, it's important to be cautious about trying new adult epilepsy drugs in children until there's good evidence that they are safe in younger, small bodies. Discuss your child's options carefully with the doctor.

Types of Epilepsy Drugs

Common epilepsy drugs for partial or tonic-clonic seizures include carbamazepine (Carbatrol or Tegretol),phenytoin(Dilantin), valproate, and valproic acid (Depakote). Side effects can include stomach problems or tiredness, and in the case of Dilantin, excess hair growth. For absence seizures, medications include Depakote or Depakene and ethosuximide(Zarontin).

Some of the newer drugs used to treat various forms of epilepsy are felbamate (Felbatol), gabapentin (Neurontin), lamotrigine (Lamictal), levetiracetam (Keppra),oxcarbazepine (Oxteller XR or Trileptil),tiagabin hydrochloride (Gabitril),topiramat (Topamax),or zonisamide (Lamictal or Zonegran)

The side effects for these epilepsy drugs vary, but generally they include:

Less common side effects of epilepsy drugs include depression, irritability, hyperactivity, and increased risk of suicidal tendencies. Many epilepsy drugs cause specific side effects, and you should ask your child's doctor about them. Any side effects should be checked out with a doctor. This is especially true of rashes, which could indicate a possibly dangerous allergic reaction to the drug.

How much of a drug should your child take? There isn't a strict rule about this, and it varies with each child. Usually, doctors will try different epilepsy drugs at different doses to determine the best one for your child. Your child should take just enough medicine to prevent seizures without causing side effects. You and your child's doctor may need to tinker with the prescription over a few months to find the right dose. It's worth the effort. Too much medication increases the side effects, while too little leaves your child vulnerable to seizures.

Also, as your child grows, the doctor may adjust the dose of medication (blood levels sometimes help with this decision).

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