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.
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 and sleep deprivation. Keeping someone awake for 24 hours increases the chances of finding abnormalities...
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.