For 70% of patients with epilepsy, drugs can control seizures. However, they can't cure epilepsy, and most people will need to continue taking medications.
An accurate diagnosis of the type of epilepsy (not just the type of seizure, because most seizure types occur in different types of epilepsy) a person has is very important in choosing the best treatment. The type of medication prescribed will also depend on several factors specific to each patient, such as which side effects can be tolerated, other illnesses he or she may have, and which delivery method is acceptable.
Seizures occur in girls and boys at an equal rate and are more common before the age of 15 and after age 65. Inherited seizures are more likely to occur in girls. Seizures occurring after head trauma are more likely in boys. For now, there is no way to screen for a seizure disorder before it develops. However, avoiding head injuries -- such as by wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle -- can reduce the risk of acquiring a seizure disorder.
Below is a list of some of the most common brand-name drugs currently used to treat epilepsy. Your doctor may prefer that you take the brand name of anticonvulsant and not the generic substitution. Talk with your doctor about this important issue.
Tegretol or Carbatrol (carbamazepine)
First choice for partial, generalized tonic-clonic and mixed seizures
Common adverse effects include fatigue, vision changes, nausea, dizziness, rash.
Used to treat absence seizures
Adverse effects include nausea, vomiting, decreased appetite, and weight loss.
Treats partial and some generalized seizures; is used rarely and only when no other medications have been effective.
Side effects include decreased appetite, weight loss, inability to sleep, headache, and depression. Although rare, the drug may cause bone marrow or liver failure. Therefore, the use of the drug is limited and patients taking it must have blood cell counts and liver tests regularly during therapy.
Used with other epilepsy drugs to treat partial and some generalized seizures
Common side effects include dizziness, fatigue, weakness, irritability, anxiety, and confusion.
Primary therapy for generalized seizures; it is combined with other epilepsy drugs to treat partial seizures.
Side effects include tiredness, weakness, and behavioral changes.
Treats partial and some generalized seizures
Has few side effects, but rarely people report dizziness, insomnia, or rash.
Used to treat partial seizures, but is used more often to treat neuropathic pain.
Side effects include dizziness, sleepiness (somnolence), dry mouth, peripheral edema, blurred vision, weight gain, and difficulty with concentration/attention.