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How is Epilepsy Treated?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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Epilepsy is a disorder that involves disturbances in the brain’s complicated electrical system. There are several different types of epilepsy and each has its own set of symptoms. Treatment for epilepsy varies depending on the type of epilepsy and the unique needs of the patient. Today, treatments are able to control seizures for most patients. However, about 20 percent of all epilepsy cases fail to respond well to treatment.

It is very important to begin treating epilepsy as soon as it is diagnosed. Waiting may cause the disorder to be harder to manage. Antiepileptic medications are often used to treat epilepsy. These medications constitute the most frequently used treatment for the disorder and there are many different types of drugs used. The particular antiepileptic drug used to treat a case of epilepsy depends on the type of seizures, their frequency, and the age and lifestyle of the person dealing with the disorder.

Typically, patients begin medication treatment after they have experienced at least two seizures. Antiepileptic drug therapy may be begun in childhood or adulthood. Usually, epilepsy can be controlled through the use of just one type of medication. Sometimes, however combinations of drugs must be used. This generally occurs with very serious forms of epilepsy.

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In some cases, epilepsy cannot be controlled with medication alone. In such situations, surgery may be recommended. Usually, surgery isn’t considered until a patient has tried at least a couple of different medication therapies without success. Furthermore, the seizure disorder must be serious enough to be worth the risks involved with surgery.

Though surgery is not without risks, it has become safer over the years, thanks to medical and technological advances. For example, brain-imaging technology makes pinpointing the area of the brain affected by seizures possible and surgical techniques allow for removing just that portion of the brain. Through removing the damaged brain tissue, surgeons are often able to successfully put a stop to epileptic seizures.

Vagus nerve stimulation may also be used to treat seizures that do not respond well to medication. Using a battery-operated device that is implanted under the skin, the vagus nerve is electrically stimulated. When successful, vagus nerve stimulation provides good seizure control. However, it may cause side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath. Also, the batteries on the stimulator device must be changed every three to five years.

Some cases of epilepsy may even be treated by consuming a special diet. Referred to as the ketogenic diet, this diet entails the consumption of fat, only small amounts of meat, and small portions of low-sugar vegetables. Generally, it is only used to treat children who aren’t responding well to medication. Unfortunately, this diet frequently leads to gastrointestinal upset. It can lead to poor development.

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NathanG
Post 3

@everetra - No one really knows. If you go far back enough, people will blame it on spiritual forces. Nowadays I think people can pinpoint what the triggers for an epileptic condition might be, but they don’t necessarily know the cause in every case. I’m not an expert but that’s what I’ve heard.

everetra
Post 2

@NathanG - Do you know what the causes of epilepsy are?

NathanG
Post 1

My friend has this condition and she’s on a variety of drugs. I don’t know if that means it’s serious or not. Her condition was a case of childhood epilepsy. She was in a car accident when she was very young and it caused some head damage. However, there was no permanent injury. She lives and acts just like everybody else. She did tell me that she tried out some of the alternative therapies for epilepsy but that they weren’t that effective. If I recall I think she mentioned something about Taurine and also a high-protein epilepsy diet, but she couldn’t stomach the diet for long, so she just gave it up and stayed with the medicine. She is definitely not interested in having her head opened up for surgery.

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