Here's a common scenario for the parent of a child with epilepsy: You find that your son has left his shoes in the middle of the living room floor for the umpteenth time, or that he still hasn't cleaned his room three weeks after you asked him, or that the garbage truck came and went this morning but he never dragged the cans to the curb.
So you decide it's time for a talk. But as you approach your son to lay down the law, you stop short. What if my yelling at him causes a seizure?
This is a common...
An electroencephalogram (EEG) to identify any abnormal electrical misfiring in the brain and help predict the risk of future seizures
Brain imaging tests such as an MRI or CT scan to help narrow down a possible treatable cause
A spinal tap if an infectious cause, such as meningitis, is suspected
What Are the Treatments for Seizures?
When a specific cause of the seizure is identified -- such as infection or low blood sugar -- treatment of that underlying condition often prevents seizures from recurring. If the underlying cause is not fully treatable or is unknown, treatment with antiseizure medications may be recommended.
Medications for Epilepsy
Anticonvulsant drugs can eliminate or reduce recurrent seizures. The choice of medication is based on the specific seizure type and pattern. Often, a single drug is used, but sometimes a combination may be necessary. Anticonvulsant drugs include:
Divalproex sodium (Depakote)
Oxteller XR (oxcarbazepine)
Valproic acid (Depakene)
For some drugs, your doctor may test your blood to make sure you are taking the right amount of medication. Blood tests can also make sure drugs are not affecting your kidneys or liver. Some people may be able to stop taking medication once their seizures have been under control for at least a year.
Surgery and Other Procedures for Seizures
Doctors may suggest surgery for the few patients whose seizures can't be controlled with medications. In vagus nerve stimulation, a device that electronically stimulates the vagus nerve (which controls activity between the brain and major internal organs) is implanted under the skin. This reduces seizure activity in some patients with partial seizures.
Surgery may be recommended for the minority of patients whose seizures can't be controlled with medications. The most successful procedures are those in which the diseased area of the brain is identified and can be removed. There are other surgeries that involve disconnecting pathways between parts of the brain to prevent the seizure from spreading.
Diet and Lifestyle
Stress may increase seizure activity in certain individuals. Relaxation techniques, biofeedback, and yoga may be helpful when used with medications. A diet known as the ketogenic diet is used with some kids -- but only under strict supervision. This diet has helped some children with seizures, but it can be very dangerous.