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Epilepsy treatment

If you have just been diagnosed with epilepsy, you may have questions about medication and treatment. 

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Epilepsy treatment

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What treatment options are there?

Epilepsy is sometimes referred to as a long-term condition, as people often live with it for many years, or for life. Although generally epilepsy cannot be ‘cured’, for most people, seizures can be 'controlled' (stopped) so that epilepsy has little or no impact on their lives. So treatment is often about managing seizures in the long-term. 

Most people with epilepsy take anti-seizure medication (ASM), previously known as anti-epileptic drugs or AEDs, to stop their seizures from happening. However, there are other treatment options for people whose seizures are not controlled by ASM.

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Medication for epilepsy

The aim of treatment is to stop all of your seizures with the lowest dose of the fewest number of ASMs and with the least side effects. Usually treatment starts using a single ASM at a low dose, which is increased slowly (called titration), until your seizures are controlled. If your seizures are not controlled with this drug, a different ASM is usually tried (by adding in the new drug and then slowly withdrawing the first one). If your seizures are not controlled with a single drug, another drug might be added, so that you take two different ASMs each day. 

Types of treatment

Treatment is usually only considered after a diagnosis of epilepsy has been made which usually happens after someone has had repeated seizures. A diagnosis should be made by a specialist, preferably with expertise in epilepsy. This is recommended by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence).

In some rare situations treatment might be considered after just a single seizure. This is usually only when a doctor thinks that it is very likely that you will have further seizures. If this is the case they may suggest starting treatment straightaway.

Ketogenic diet

The ketogenic diet is one treatment option for children or adults with epilepsy whose seizures are not controlled with AEDs. The diet may help to reduce the number or severity of seizures and may have other positive effects.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Vagus nerve stimulation therapy is a treatment for epilepsy that involves a stimulator (or 'pulse generator') which is connected, inside the body, to the left vagus nerve in the neck. The stimulator sends regular, mild electrical stimulations through this nerve to help calm down the irregular electrical brain activity that leads to seizures.

Deep Brain Stimulation

Deep brain stimulation therapy is a surgical treatment which aims to reduce seizures not controlled with medication, and where surgery to treat the cause of seizures is not possible. It involves implanting electrodes into specific areas of the brain.

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Your rights and choices

Our document, Care and treatment: your rights and choices explains your rights and the services that you can expect as someone with epilepsy.

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Anti-epileptic drugs booklet

Photographs of currently licensed brand and branded generic versions of anti-epileptic drugs.

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