The main goal of epilepsy treatment is for you to live with no seizures or side effects. If you have recently been diagnosed with epilepsy, it is useful to know about the various ways of managing this condition. Here is everything you need to know about epilepsy treatment options.
Is there any treatment for epilepsy?
Yes! There are several tried and tested epilepsy treatment options, many of which have high rates of success in helping people to control their seizures. Not every epilepsy treatment will work for everyone in the same way. This is why it's important to know about alternative ways of controlling your seizures. Try speaking to your doctor if your current treatment doesn't seem to be working for you.
What affects the epilepsy treatment you’re given?
There are a number of factors which will affect the epilepsy treatment you are given. These include:
- Type of epilepsy you have: For example, focal epilepsy treatment may use different methods to generalized epilepsy treatment.
- Your age: Epilepsy may affect people in different ways depending on their age. For example, juvenile myoclonic epilepsy treatment will require a different approach to epilepsy in an older person who starts having seizures after a stroke.
- Sex: Your epilepsy treatment may change depending on your biological sex. For example, there are some kinds of anti-epilepsy drugs that are not suitable for women who are trying to become pregnant.
- Other health issues and medication: Your epilepsy treatment options may be affected by other health issues (and treatments) you are living with, including things like depression, anxiety or birth control.
Main epilepsy treatment options
Here are the main options for epilepsy treatment used today:
Anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs)
There is a wide range of anti-epileptic drugs that are used to treat seizures. These medications work in different ways and are sometimes used on their own (monotherapy) and other times in combination (known as polytherapy).
AEDs are usually the first method used to treat seizures and they work for about two thirds of people with epilepsy. Roughly one third of people find that AEDs do not help control their seizures - or they have unpleasant side effects. This is known as ‘drug resistant’ or ‘refractory’ epilepsy.
If you have tried two or more AEDs and they do not control your seizures, speak to your doctor about alternative epilepsy treatment options. In most cases, trying more drugs is unlikely to help control your seizures.
Some people’s seizures are caused by unusual electrical activity that begins at a very specific location in the brain. It is sometimes possible to perform brain surgery to remove the affected area and stop seizures.
Seizures are caused by uncontrolled bursts of electrical activity in the brain. Researchers have found that by placing implants in your body that send regular pulses of electricity into the brain, can help to control or reduce the number of seizures you have. There are a few options here, including vagus nerve stimulation and deep brain stimulation.
There are various diets that have been proven to change patterns of electrical activity in the brain and reduce the frequency of seizures. The best known epilepsy treatment of this kind is the ketogenic diet - where you eat a diet which is largely based on fats (there are other versions such as the Modified Atkins Diet). Read more.
Cannabidiol (known as CBD) is one of the newer epilepsy treatments that have been approved by the FDA. Derived from the marijuana plant, the medicine appears to help control seizures for some people. Read more.
Besides medical interventions, epilepsy can sometimes be managed by focusing on your lifestyle. Since many seizures are related to feelings of stress, lifestyle-based epilepsy treatment options look at ways to manage stress with things like breathing techniques, medication, yoga and gentle exercise. Read more.
Always speak with your doctor about trying out lifestyle-based epilepsy treatments. They should not replace your main epilepsy treatment.
Working towards a life without seizures
Doctors, scientists and epilepsy advocates are continually investigating new epilepsy treatments that are helping people to better manage their seizures. If you have any uncertainties about your epilepsy treatment or would like to hear about alternatives, speak with your doctor for advice and information.