By: Tik Yee Lau
Before getting treated for epilepsy, it is important for the physician to confirm that the diagnosis of epilepsy is correct. Furthermore, determining the type of epilepsy and other neurological conditions, if any, would allow the physician to create a better treatment plan for the patient.
Because every patient has unique circumstances (such as age, medical history, tolerance of side effects, varying EEG results), there are different types of treatment options available.
Antiepileptic medications are the most common treatment. Although it does not cure epilepsy, the medications are effective in preventing seizures for most people when they are taken regularly. There are many antiepileptic drugs available and the doctor may choose to prescribe one or more drugs depending on the patient’s circumstances and health. After starting the medications, the doctor will monitor the effects. Accordingly, he may adjust the dosage and may even prescribe other drugs. If the drugs are not effective in preventing seizures for the patient, the patient can consult with the doctor about other treatment options.
Alternatively, surgery is also an option. However, surgery for epilepsy is usually complicated because it involves many steps. A person should consider surgery only if he or she has a history of seizures with no success from standard medications. It helps if the individual has a seizure focus that causes it to always arise from one part of the brain, and if removal of the region would not damage important functions such as eyesight, memory, and speech.
Vagus nerve stimulation is also a possible treatment. A battery that is about the size of a silver dollar is surgically implanted under the patent’s skin in the chest area (in most cases). With this battery, electrical energy can be used to stimulate the vagus nerve, a large nerve in the neck, to prevent seizures.
For children with epilepsy, a doctor might prescribe a ketogenic diet which is high in fat and low in carbohydrates. Although adults can go through a ketogenic diet as well, it is usually targeted at the children. The reasons behind ketognic diet’s success are still not clear today. About 80 percent of this diet is composed of fat. It mimics starvation by forcing the body to burn fat for energy. Usually, the doctor will ask the child to try the diet for 1-3 months to see if the ketogenic diet can successfully control seizures. If it proves effective, the doctor will slowly decrease the antiepileptic dosages and ultimately stop the medications. The ketogenic diet treatment usually lasts about 2 years. When considering this alternative, it is important to consider the potential side effects as well, such as high levels of fat build-up in the blood. A medical team should closely monitor the health of patients undergoing a ketogenic diet.
1. Treatment. Epilepsy Foundation. Web. Retrieved February 13, 2014, <http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/aboutepilepsy/treatment/index.cfm>
2. Epilepsy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013). Web. Retrieved February 13, 2014, from <http://www.cdc.gov/epilepsy/basics/faqs.htm#7>