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Epilepsy Health Center

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Epilepsy Treatments: Find the Right Medication

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Choosing the Right Epilepsy Medication continued...

Side effects. Epilepsy medications can cause a variety of side effects, including fatigue, slowed or "foggy" thinking, unsteadiness, nausea, as well as skin reactions. There is also an increased risk of suicide and mood disorder among those with epilepsy. Older adults are often more sensitive to these side effects. Which side effects you can tolerate play a role in which drug your doctor prescribes. Your doctor will try to find a medicine that eliminates your seizures and has no side effects. However, this may not always be possible.

Cost. Cost may be a deciding factor when it comes to which epilepsy medication you choose. Older epilepsy drugs are often much less expensive than newer ones. Some brands are available in a cheaper, generic form.

The Epilepsy Foundation web site offers a complete list of available epilepsy medications and information about when the medicine is used, how it is taken, and the possible side effects.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Together, you and your doctor will decide which epilepsy medication might be best for you. Here are some questions to ask your doctor about epilepsy medication:

  • How and when do I take this medicine?
  • What side effects might it have?
  • Will this medicine cause any long-term health risks?
  • Can I safely take this drug with the other medications I take?
  • I take birth control pills. Will this drug affect how they work?
  • Can I take this drug if I get pregnant?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?
  • How long do I have to wait to drive if you change my medication?
  • Is there a generic I could take?

Remember, it is important to take your epilepsy medication exactly as directed. You need a consistent level of medicine in your blood to prevent seizures. If you miss a dose, stop taking the medication, or even change your medication, breakthrough seizures can occur. You will need regular blood tests to monitor the level of the epilepsy medicine in your bloodstream.

When Medication Does Not Work

Finding the best epilepsy medication for you can be complicated. Your doctor may need to change your medicine or dose from time to time to better control your seizures or reduce unpleasant side effects.

If medications do not control your seizures very well, your doctor may recommend surgery or an implanted device called a vagus nerve stimulator. For children with epilepsy, the doctor may suggest a special diet.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on November 22, 2015
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