What're the treatments for epilepsy?
For most people with epilepsy, treatment can reduce or prevent seizures and allow many patients to remain free of seizures for the rest of their lives. Uncontrolled seizures can have a big impact on lifestyle, restricting the individual from driving and limiting their work and leisure time activities. Although seizures themselves usually are not physically harmful to people who have epilepsy, they carry a risk of injury and death. The risk is greater for people who have many seizures,
depending on the type of seizure they have. Unexpected seizures can cause falls, drowning or other accidents, and a lengthy seizure condition (status epilepticus) can lead to coma or death. By reducing or stopping seizures, treatment may greatly improve the patient's quality of life and safety.
Epilepsy is often treated with medication, neurocybernetic prostheses (similar to a heart pacemaker) and occasionally via surgery or specialized diet. In most cases, the proper emergency response to a Generalized Tonic/Clonic epileptic seizure is simply to prevent the patient from injuring themselves by moving him or her away from sharp edges, placing something soft beneath the head, and carefully moving the person onto his or her side to avoid asphyxiation. If the seizure lasts longer than 3-4 minutes, contact Emergency Medical Services immediately, as this may indicate the presence of Status Epilepticus, a potentially fatal condition. One should never place any object in a person's mouth during a seizure as this could result in injury to the victim's mouth. Despite common folklore, it is not possible for a person to swallow the tongue during a seizure.
Various drugs have been discovered that serve to control or limit seizures, including marijuana, carbamazepine (brand name Tegretol), oxcarbazepine (Trileptal), clonazepam (Klonopin), ethosuximide (Zarontin), felbamate (Felbatol), fosphenytoin (Cerebyx), gabapentin (Neurontin), lamotrigine (Lamictal), phenobarbital (Luminal), phenytoin (Dilantin), primidone (Mysoline), tiagabine (Gabitril), topiramate (Topamax), valproate, sodium divalproex (Depakene, Depakote), vigabatrin (Sabril) and levetiracetam (Keppra).
Ketogenic diets have also been found to be effective in controlling some types of epilepsy, although the mechanism behind the effect is not fully understood. Ketogenic diets are high in fat and extremely low in carbohydrates, with intake of fluids often limited. This treatment, originated as early as the 1920s, was largely abandoned with the discovery of modern anti-epileptic drugs, but has enjoyed a return to popularity in recent times. Ketogenic diets are sometimes prescribed in severe cases where drugs have proven ineffective.
Vagus nerve stimulation is a recently developed form of seizure control which uses an implanted electrical device, similar in size, shape and implant location to a heart pacemaker, which connects to the vagus nerve in the neck. Once in place the device can be set to emit electronic pulses to the vagus nerve at pre-set intervals and milliamp levels. Treatment studies have shown that approximately 50% of epileptics treated in this fashion will show significant seizure reduction. Vagus nerve stimulation is effective in treatment of seizures in some cases. The stimulator is a battery powered device similar to a pacemaker and is implanted under the skin in the upper left chest wall. From the stimulator a lead is tunneled under the skin and attached to the left vagus nerve in the lower part of the neck. The batteries last from three to five years and need replacement after that.
Status epilepticus is a prolonged seizure or cluster of seizures that requires emergency treatment whether or not the individual has epilepsy. A seizure or cluster of seizures that goes on for more than 20 to 30 minutes during which the person does not wake up can cause brain damage. Treatment with antiepileptic medications needs to be started immediately for any seizure lasting more than five minutes. Medication used to end the seizure is given through an IV (intravenously) so that it takes effect more quickly. If IV medication is not available, medication may be given rectally or as a shot in the muscle.
Some sufferers receive a special kind of dog which has the rare talent of sensing the onset of a seizure and are trained to alert the human so they can reach a safe location before their seizure puts them in danger.
More information on epilepsy (seizures)
What is epilepsy? - Epilepsy is a general term that includes various types of seizures. Epilepsy is characterized by unprovoked, recurring seizures that disrupt the nervous system.
What are seizures? - Seizures (or convulsions) are temporary alterations in brain functions due to abnormal electrical activity of a group of brain cells that present with apparent clinical symptoms and findings.
What types of seizures are there? - The two main categories of seizures include partial seizures and generalized seizures. A partial seizure can evolve to a generalized seizure.
What types of epilepsy are there? - There are several types of epilepsy. Epilepsy can be divided into two broad categories: idiopathic epilepsy and symptomatic epilepsy.
What're the common types of epilepsy? - The most common types of epilepsy are absence epilepsy, temporal lobe epilepsy, frontal lobe epilepsy, occipital lobe epilepsy, and parietal lobe epilepsy.
What causes epilepsy? - Epilepsy may be caused by a number of unrelated conditions, including damage resulting from high fever, stroke, toxicity, or electrolyte imbalances.
What causes children epilepsy? - There are many possible causes of epilepsy in children. Seizures in infants and children may be due to birth defects, difficulties during delivery, or poisoning.
What factors will trigger epilepsy? - The triggers of epilepsy include inadequate sleep, food allergies, alcohol and smoking, flashing lights, developmental anomalies, and brain tumours.
What're the symptoms of epilepsy? - There are many forms of epilepsy, each with its own characteristic symptoms. The basic symptom of epilepsy is a brief and abnormal phase of behavior.
How is epilepsy diagnosed? - Making an accurate diagnosis is vital in planning the correct treatment to control seizures. Taking a medical history can help rule out non-epilepsy conditions.
What're the treatments for epilepsy? - For most people with epilepsy, treatment can reduce or prevent seizures and allow many patients to remain free of seizures for the rest of their lives.
What epilepsy medications are available? - Epilepsy is often treated with medication, neurocybernetic prostheses. Medications available for the treatment of seizures include phenytoin, carbamazepine, divalproex.
What epilepsy surgeries are available? - Surgical techniques to remove injured brain tissue may be appropriate for many patients with epilepsy. The most common surgery for epilepsy is temporal lobectomy.
What is vagus nerve stimulation? - Vagus nerve stimulation is a recently developed form of seizure control which uses an implanted electrical device.
What epilepsy diet is suggested? - It is believe that a restricted caloric intake while on a balanced diet can lead to measurable seizure reduction among all age groups.
How to prevent epilepsy? - Effective actions for the prevention of epilepsy include adequate pre-natal and post-natal care, safe delivery, control of fever in children, control of parasitic diseases.
Epilepsy in children - Epilepsy is a common childhood disorder. The prospect of control by means of anti-epileptic drugs is good in most children with epilepsy.
Pregnancy and epilepsy - Women with epilepsy who become pregnant have a higher risk for complications than women who don't have epilepsy.
Difference between seizures and epilepsy - Seizures are a symptom of epilepsy. Epilepsy is the underlying tendency of the brain to produce a sudden burst of electrical energy.
What's a grand mal seizure? - A grand mal seizure is a seizure involving the entire body, usually characterized by muscle rigidity, violent rhythmic muscle contractions, and loss of consciousness.
What's absence seizure (petit mal seizure)? - Absence seizure e - also known as petit mal seizure - is a type of seizure that most often occurs in children.
What is a febrile seizure? - A febrile seizure is a convulsion in a child triggered by a fever. A febrile seizure may be as mild as the child's eyes rolling or limbs stiffening.
What are epileptic seizures? - An epileptic seizure, often referred to as a fit, occurs when there is an abnormal discharge of neurones in the brain.
What is status epilepticus? - Status epilepticus is a continuous seizure state. Status epilepticus is most often caused by not taking anticonvulsant medication as prescribed.
What causes seizures? - Seizures may be caused by many conditions, diseases, injuries, and other factors. Injuries that may cause seizures include choking, head injury.