Working With Your Doctor for the Best Epilepsy Treatment
If you have been diagnosed with epilepsy, you will have many questions. One of the first will probably be, "How can my epilepsy be treated?" There is no single answer to this question. That is because doctors have identified hundreds of different epilepsy syndromes, which involve many different types of seizures.
Your epilepsy may be inherited, or it may not. One study has found that some people with epilepsy have inherited an abnormally active version of a gene that makes them resistant to drugs. This may explain why some people have a hard time controlling their seizures with medication.
If you have epilepsy, avoiding possible triggers -- such as lack of sleep, flashing lights, video games, use of heroin or cocaine, and abrupt withdrawal from medications or alcohol -- may prevent or reduce seizures. People with diabetes may help prevent seizures triggered by low blood sugar levels by closely monitoring blood sugar.
Even though they may look very different, seizures all start in the same place: your brain. They are caused by sudden changes in the way brain cells send electrical signals back and forth. But just because they start in the same place does not mean they can be treated in the same way. Your doctor will want to obtain an accurate diagnosis of the exact type of epilepsy that you have. Only then can your doctor create the treatment plan that is right for you.
Today, most epilepsy is treated with medication. Drugs do not cure epilepsy, but they can often seizures very well. About 80% of people with epilepsy today have their seizures controlled by medication at least some of the time. Of course, that means that 20% of people with epilepsy are not helped by medication. And others who do take medication say that it doesn't help enough. Your doctor will work with you to select the right kind of medication for your type of seizures. If you find that the medication does not control your seizures, your doctor can then talk with you about other treatment options.
There are more drugs available today to control seizures than ever before. In fact, there are more than 20 different medications now on the market to treat epilepsy. Older medications which are still used to treat epilepsy include:
Carbamazepine (Tegretol or Carbatrol)
Divalproex (depakote, Depakote ER)
Diazepam (Valium and similar tranquilizers)
Phenytoin (Dilantin or Phenytek)
Valproic acid (Depakene)
There are also some newer drugs used to treat epilepsy. Some of them are:
Eslicarbazepine acetate (Aptiom)
Oxcarbazepine (Oxtellar XR)
For more information about each drug, see "Epilepsy: Medications to Treat Seizures." Each of these drugs is slightly different. Some work well for some kinds of epilepsy and not for others. Each one also has its own side effects, like all drugs do. Besides your type of epilepsy, here are some other factors that can influence which drug might be right for you. You should discuss these with your doctor:
Your age, gender, and other health issues
How the drugs work and possible side effects
Other drugs you are taking
What kind of side effects you can live with
What you hope that the medication will do for you; for example, you might want a medication that makes you more alert and better able to concentrate at work.