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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Brain surgery or neurosurgery is one way of treating epilepsy. Certain criteria have to be met and tests have to be done to assess suitability.