Epileptology is a branch of neurology which focuses specifically on the study and treatment of epilepsy. Practitioners in this specialty have completed a neurology residency, and taken a fellowship in epilepsy to gain additional knowledge in the field. Patients with epilepsy can benefit from the specialized training and skills of an epileptologist if they are having difficulty managing their condition, are suffering from a rare form of epilepsy, or are experiencing debilitating side effects from epilepsy medications.
Epilepsy is an ancient condition which was recognized and described by a number of human cultures historically, with various explanations being ascribed to the condition, including demonic possession. As the workings of the brain and body began to be more understood, the causes of epilepsy were identified, with medical practitioners working on the development of treatments. Like many medical subspecialties, epileptology started with a few physicians who were especially interested in epilepsy and pursued training on their own, and gradually grew into an area of focus complete with recognized epilepsy fellowships.
People who work in the field of epileptology may be involved directly in patient care. Epileptologists work exclusively with patients who have epilepsy, providing monitoring, ongoing care, and treatment options. They have access to the latest information about epilepsy, and can work with patients who want to change medications, try a new treatment approach, or get more expert advice. Ideally, the treatment of epilepsy should result in few to no seizures, with low side effects from medication. Sometimes this can require weeks or months of treatment adjustments, with an epileptologist supervising.
In addition to general epileptology, there is also a pediatric focus within this medical specialty. A pediatric epileptologist works specifically with children who suffer from epilepsy. Treating children can be very different from treating adults, as children may require different medications or have unique needs which a general epileptologist cannot address. Both pediatric and general epileptologists can be found working in hospitals, private epilepsy clinics, and their own medical practices. Visiting a specialist can be costly, but the results can be highly beneficial for the patient.
Epileptology researchers are also important. These medical researchers advance the cause of general medical knowledge, studying epilepsy and conducting controlled studies which are designed to help develop new treatments. The more the medical community knows about epilepsy, the better the available treatment options. Researchers can work for private foundations which fund epilepsy research, along with pharmaceutical companies working on new medications.