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Epilepsy Health Center

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Switching Epilepsy Medications

Fifty percent of all patients with newly diagnosed epilepsy will become seizure-free with the first epilepsy drug they try. For the rest, it's try, try again: switching epilepsy medications, adjusting to side effects, and waiting to make sure the new drug works. Others find their seizures are controlled, but they can't tolerate the medication's side effects and need to switch drugs.

Before you ask your doctor if your medication should be switched, make sure you are taking your current medication exactly as prescribed. Missing doses, splitting pills, or not following instructions to the letter could affect your control and the side effects you experience. If you are already complying with your doctor’s instructions, but still are having breakthrough seizures, talk to your neurologist or epileptologist (specialists who are experts in treating epilepsy). Your doctor will evaluate whether you should switch medications.

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What to Do if Your Child Has an Epileptic Seizure

Most epileptic seizures are over so quickly that you don't really have much time to do anything. After it's over, you simply make sure that the child wasn't injured. Tonic-clonic seizures are the most dramatic and frightening of the seizures, and they usually last longer than other seizures. Here are some suggestions for handling them: Move things out of the way so the child won't injure him or herself. Loosen any tight clothing around the neck. Put a pillow or something soft under the...

Read the What to Do if Your Child Has an Epileptic Seizure article > >

Eventually, up to 70% of people with epilepsy become seizure-free with minimal side effects while taking epilepsy drugs. But switching epilepsy medications takes time and patience. Finding the right epilepsy drug for you can require equal parts art and science -- and sometimes a bit of luck.

Switching Epilepsy Medications: A Small Leap of Faith

Even the best doctors don't know which epilepsy drug will work best in any given person.

When managing epilepsy, doctors take a snapshot of your epilepsy profile: your type of seizures, your age and gender, other medical conditions, medicines you're on or may be on later, your time of life, and epilepsy drugs you've tried in the past.

Based on that information, your doctor may narrow down the field to a few epilepsy drugs to try. But after that, it's an educated leap of faith, experts tell WebMD.

Switching Medications for Epilepsy: How It's Done

What does the process of switching epilepsy medications involve? The events will be different for each person. Experts agree, though, that success depends on a good partnership between you and your doctor. Switching medications may include these steps:

1. Choose a new drug. Your doctor will work closely with you to decide on the next best epilepsy drug worth trying. That includes a detailed discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of the medicine and its likely side effects, as well as rare but potentially serious effects. If you're a young woman, now is the time to discuss any plans for pregnancy. Some medications interact with birth control pills. And women of childbearing age who take seizure medications should also take daily folate supplements. The more you're involved in the process of choosing your epilepsy drug, the better the chances for long-term success.

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