Treatment Options for Epilepsy

Once a diagnosis of epilepsy is made, the next step is to decide how to treat it. These days, there are several treatment options for epilepsy.

In a few cases, avoiding a known trigger for seizures may prevent them. However, you may not be able to avoid all seizure triggers—and avoiding them may not completely eliminate seizures. Many factors that can trigger seizures include:

  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Some drugs, both prescription and recreational
  • Stress
  • Illness
  • Low blood sugar

More commonly, it’s not clear what—if anything external-triggers seizures. The usual treatment for seizures is anti-epileptic medications, also called anticonvulsants or AEDs. Different types of seizures are controlled with different medications, so if you have more than one type of seizure, you’ll need to take more than one medication.

To be effective, anticonvulsant medications must be present in your bloodstream at a certain level, called the ‘therapeutic’ level. This level controls seizure activity without causing side effects. Usually, medications are started at a low dose and gradually increased (called ‘titrating’) until a therapeutic blood level is achieved.

After the therapeutic level is achieved, medications must be taken without interruption to prevent seizure activity. Unlike antibiotics, which cure infections and can be stopped when the infection is gone, anticonvulsants control seizure activity by their constant presence in your blood.

Other treatment options include a therapeutic ketogenic diet, which reduces your intake of carbohydrates, forcing your body to burn fat stores for energy. This diet is prescribed by a doctor and must be closely supervised by a registered dietician for safety.

In some women, seizure activity changes with their menstrual cycle. Hormonal therapies for men and women are being investigated as to whether they, along with anticonvulsant medications, can help control seizures.

Surgery is another treatment option. In some cases, the abnormal brain tissue that causes seizures can be removed. Studies suggest that surgery is an effective treatment for people with uncontrollable seizures in one particular part of the brain (the temporal lobe).

A surgically implanted device provides mild electrical stimulation to the vagal nerve in the neck. In people whose seizures aren’t controlled by medication or who find it impossible to tolerate the side effects, this device (called a VNS, for vagal nerve stimulator) can provide improvement in seizure control.

You may we curious about alternative or complementary therapies for epilepsy. Unfortunately, while strategies like stress-reduction can make it easier to live with a seizure disorder, no alternative therapies have been found that effectively control epilepsy.

Discuss this with the support group.

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About Arlene Martell

Arlene Martell is the publisher of and the author of Getting Adam Back – A Mother's triumph over Epilepsy and Autism. She resides in a seaside suburb on Vancouver BC Canada with her husband James and their four children Adam, Justin, Shelby and Victoria.