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Epilepsy Drugs to Treat Seizures

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.

Recommended Related to Epilepsy

Understanding Epilepsy -- Diagnosis and Treatment

To diagnose epilepsy, your doctor will take a detailed medical history (including a family history of seizures), gather information about your behavior before, during, and after the episode, and do a physical exam. Make sure someone who witnessed the seizure goes to the doctor with you. An electroencephalogram (EEG) -- a brain wave study -- can reveal abnormal brain waves characteristic of epilepsy. Keeping someone awake for 24 hours (sleep deprivation) increases the chances of finding abnormalities...

Read the Understanding Epilepsy -- Diagnosis and Treatment article > >

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.

Carbamazepine (Tegretol or Carbatrol)

  • First choice for partial, generalized tonic-clonic and mixed seizures
  • Common adverse effects include fatigue, vision changes, nausea, dizziness, rash.

Diazepam (Valium ), Lorazepam (Ativan) and similar tranquilizers such as Clonazepam ( Klonopin )

  • Effective in short-term treatment of all seizures; used often in the emergency room to stop a seizure, particularly status epilepticus
  • Tolerance develops in most within a few weeks, so the same dose has less effect over time.
  • Valium can also be given as rectal suppository.
  • Side effects include tiredness, unsteady walking, nausea, depression, and loss of appetite. In children, they can cause drooling and hyperactivity.

Eslicarbazepine acetate (Aptiom)

  • This drug is used as adjunctive treatment (meaning it's taken in addition to other drugs) of partial-onset seizures.
  • The most common side effects include dizziness, nausea, headache, vomiting, fatigue, vertigo, ataxia, blurred vision, and tremor.

Ethosuximide (Zarontin)

  • Used to treat absence seizures
  • Adverse effects include nausea, vomiting, decreased appetite, and weight loss.

Felbamate (Felbatol)

  • Treats partial seizures alone and some partial and generalized seizures in Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome; 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.

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