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Epilepsy - Medications

Medicines to prevent epileptic seizures are called antiepileptics. The goal is to find an effective antiepileptic medicine that causes the fewest side effects.

Although many people experience side effects, medicine is still the best way to prevent epileptic seizures. The benefits of treatment with medicine usually outweigh the drawbacks.

There are many antiepileptic medicines (called AEDs, anticonvulsants, or antiseizure medicines). But they do not all treat the same types of seizures. The first step your doctor takes in choosing a medicine to treat your seizures is to identify the types of seizures you have.

It may take time and careful, controlled adjustments by you and your doctor to find the combination, schedule, and dosing of medicine to best manage your epilepsy. The goal is to prevent seizures while causing as few side effects as possible. After you and your doctor figure out the medicine program that works best for you, make sure to follow your program exactly as prescribed.

Using a single antiepileptic medicine is often better than using more than one medicine. Single medicine use causes fewer side effects and does not carry the risk of interacting with other medicines. The chances of missing a dose or taking it at the wrong time are also lower with just one medicine.

When treatment with one medicine doesn't help you enough, your doctor may suggest a second medicine to help improve seizure control. Also, if you have several types of seizures, you may need to take more than one medicine.

Medicine choices

Many medicines are used to treat epilepsy. Some are used alone, and some are used only along with other medicines. Your medicine options depend in part on what types of seizures you have. The medicines listed below are not the only medicines used for epilepsy, but they are the most common.

Medicines used for partial seizures, including those with secondary generalization

  • Carbamazepine (such as Carbatrol).
  • Lamotrigine (Lamictal)
  • Levetiracetam (Keppra)
  • Oxcarbazepine (such as Trileptal).

Medicines used for primary generalized (tonic-clonic) seizures

  • Lamotrigine (Lamictal)
  • Levetiracetam (Keppra)
  • Valproate (such as Depakene).

Medicines used for absence seizures

  • Ethosuximide (Zarontin)
  • Valproate (such as Depakene).
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