While epilepsy is different for everyone, the majority (70%) of people with epilepsy are able to control their seizures with the help of medications or other treatments. Finding the right medication is a very individualized process, and may take trying several different seizure medications or a combination of medications to find which ones work best.
Working with a neurologist who specializes in brain disorders is recommended if you are newly diagnosed. If you’re unable to gain seizure control through the use of medication, the next step is working with an epileptologist or visiting a comprehensive epilepsy center and exploring other options.
Comprehensive epilepsy centers offer advanced testing and treatment options, including surgery and dietary therapy. You’ll also have access to psychologists, social workers, neurosurgeons, and epileptologists. These centers are recommended for people who fail to gain seizure control through medication or have co-occurring conditions such as mental health disorders, autism, pregnancy, and so forth.
Medication is typically the first option to treat epilepsy as there’s a wide range of anti-epilepsy drugs (AEDs) available. Seven out of 10 people are able to achieve seizure control through the use of seizure medications.
If your seizures are resistant to medication, then surgery may be an option. However, it depends on what part of the brain your seizures occur in, and if they are caused by a structural abnormality like a tumor.
Implant devices are inserted inside the skull and connected to the brain, so they can interrupt the process of seizure development in hopes of stopping a seizure before it starts. Options include Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS), Responsive Nerve Stimulation (RNS), and Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS).
Other therapies that have been found to help with seizure control include the ketogenic diet, modified Atkins diet, and medicinal cannabis. Since these may have an effect on other medications you’re taking, it’s important to discuss these options with your doctor.
Managing Your Medication
The overwhelming majority of those with epilepsy or seizure disorders do well with no seizures and no side effects with taking medications. The number one cause of seizures in those with epilepsy is missing pills, or not taking seizure medications as prescribed, often called non-compliance or non-adherence.