Understanding Epilepsy
Inside the brain
Risks & Causes
Diagnosis
Treatment
Talk to your Specialist
FAQs
Epilepsy treatment options

Deciding how to treat epilepsy is a personal decision you make with your neurologist or epileptologist. Epilepsy treatment is different for each person, so it’s best to become as educated as possible.


Any tips for my first neurologist visit?

Your first step may be to see your primary care doctor and to get a referral to a neurologist or epileptologist who has the most experience and in-depth knowledge in the field. Sometimes patients may also be referred after a visit to the emergency room after experiencing their first seizure. Before your medical visit, write down any questions you have. If possible, write down everything you remember about what brings on your seizures, and also be prepared to discuss your medical history including any past injuries.
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What is adjunct therapy?

The aim of epilepsy treatment is to control seizures with one medication but in some people that cannot be done. Adjunct therapy (or “add-on treatment”) is when one epilepsy treatment or medication is combined with another medication. Its purpose is to assist the primary treatment in a kind of tag-team approach to epilepsy treatment.

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How do I keep my epilepsy treatment on track?

One way to stick to the treatment plan you and your doctor agreed to is to check your prescription every time you pick it up at the pharmacy.

Think of the following “Four Cs” to help you stay on track, because staying on track with a medication that is working is important to managing your seizures.
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How do I read my prescription bottle?

Staying on track with medication means staying informed. Here's how to read your prescription bottle and make sure what's inside matches the treatment you and your doctor have agreed to.
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It can be scary to change epilepsy medications. Any advice for making  
  a successful switch or addition to my current epilepsy treatment?

If you or your loved one is not achieving seizure control with current medication(s), it is not unusual for a neurologist or epileptologist to make a change. Being nervous is natural; one of the biggest fears being that stopping one epilepsy medication and starting another will lead to more seizures if the new medication doesn’t work. Neurologists help guide their patients through the process. Neurologists may recommend slowly starting the new medication while the patient is still on the old one and gradually tapering the old one down before stopping it. Fortunately, excellent epilepsy medications are available. It is a matter of matching the right medication to the right person.

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How long will I have to take epilepsy medication?

Each person with epilepsy is different. Some children may outgrow their epilepsy and will no longer need medication. Others will require lifelong epilepsy medication to control their seizures. It’s important to work with your neurologist or epileptologist to determine what’s best for you. Your doctor is your best resource with whom to discuss your therapies and medications.

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Who is a candidate for surgery?

Surgical removal of seizure-producing areas of the brain is an alternative for some people whose seizures cannot be controlled by epilepsy medications. It can be performed on both children and adults. Epilepsy surgery may be especially beneficial for those who have seizures associated with structural brain abnormalities, such as a specific brain tumor, malformations of blood vessels or brain tissue, and strokes. Very often even after brain surgery you may still be required to take medication. Your neurologist is your best resource for information about your therapy.

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What epilepsy research is being done?

Scientists continue to develop new and better epilepsy medications. They study how neurotransmitters (chemicals that transmit impulses from one neuron to another) interact with brain cells to control nerve firing and how cells in the brain contribute to seizures. Researchers are also working to identify genes that may influence epilepsy. This information could potentially allow doctors to prevent epilepsy or to predict which treatments will be most beneficial. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other brain scans are also being improved for even better, more accurate diagnosis.

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How can I better manage my epilepsy?

The more you take control, the better you can manage your epilepsy. Managing epilepsy is best handled by taking a team approach between doctors and patients. The team may include your family doctor, neurologist or epileptologist, neurosurgeon, nurse, psychologist, social worker, and members of your family. Since you know yourself better than anyone, your input is vital.
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What are the benefits of keeping a seizure diary?

Keeping a daily seizure diary is one way to make living with epilepsy easier. By tracking your seizure activity and epilepsy medication routine, you can help provide valuable information to your neurologist or epileptologist. You need to assess your quality of life and tell your healthcare team how you are functioning and feeling. For example, are you able to do your day-to-day activities? A seizure diary is a great way to track your progress as it relates to seizure activity and any side effects you may be experiencing.

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What is the best way to let friends or colleagues know about my epilepsy?

An open, honest, matter-of-fact approach usually works best. Explain that epilepsy is a medical condition and in most cases can be controlled with epilepsy medication. Let them know that the everyday lives of people with epilepsy aren’t necessarily different from theirs. As you spend time with them, they’ll come to understand this even better.

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Can epilepsy be treated with drugs?

Here are some facts about medications for epilepsy:
  • Most are taken by mouth
  • The type of drug prescribed for you may be determined by the type of seizures you have. It may take some degree of trial and error to find the best one and the optimum dose for you
  • Monotherapy is the use of a single medication. The use of more than one is called polytherapy and may be required for the most effective control
  • As with all drugs, epilepsy medications may have side effects. Discuss all side effects with your physician; he or she may be able to alter the dosage or prescribe something different that would be more effective for you.
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