The most common treatment for epilepsy is a class of drugs known anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). In general, the drugs that are used to treat epilepsy are designed to dampen or decrease the excitability of brain cells. This raises the seizure threshold and makes it less likely that a seizure will occur. Therefore, some of the side-effects of these medications are related to the drug’s action on brain cells and can interfere with normal brain function. Side-effects may be more pronounced when a medication is first introduced and may subside as the person’s brain adjusts to the drug. A person who is taking more than one AED has a higher likelihood of experiencing side-effects than someone taking a single medication.
Although 70% of people with epilepsy will obtain excellent seizure control with medication(s), the other 30% will not. However, there are other treatment options available that can be very successful including brain surgery, nerve and brain stimulators, and dietary treatments.
People living with epilepsy may be eligible for a variety of brain surgeries. Surgery may involve removing the part of the brain (resective surgery) where the seizures originate or it may involve cutting nerve fibers to prevent seizures from spreading from one side of the brain to the other.
Nerve and Brain Stimulators
People who are not candidates for resective brain surgery may have other surgical treatment options. For example, the Vagal Nerve Stimulator (VNS) is a battery-powered device that is surgically implanted under the skin in the chest and delivers electrical impulses to the vagal nerve in the neck.
A ketogenic diet is a high fat, low protein, low carbohydrate diet. This treatment is used primarily in children whose seizures are not well-controlled with medication and when resective surgery is not an option. There are also variations of this diet that have been used successfully in adults. The ketogenic diet is a medical treatment and should only be implemented under a doctor’s supervision.
Some people with epilepsy find it helpful to incorporate complementary therapies in conjunction with their traditional medical therapy. Complementary therapies include acupuncture, biofeedback, herbal treatments, aromatherapy, homeopathy, stress reduction techniques, etc. There is no evidence to suggest that complementary therapies are successful in controlling epilepsy on their own. Always consult with your physician before trying a complementary therapy.