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The goal of treatments for epilepsy is decreasing the number and severity of seizures while minimizing potential side effects. Many forms of treatment involve medications that manage the symptoms of the condition. In cases where medications do not adequately control seizures, surgery may be considered. One option that has shown some success in children is a strict diet rich in fats and low in carbohydrates (known as a ketogenic diet).

Treating Epilepsy: 

Accurate diagnosis of the type of epilepsy a person has is crucial in finding an effective epilepsy treatment.

There are many different treatment options for epilepsy. Current methods can control seizures at least some of the time in about 80 percent of people with epilepsy. However, another 20 percent -- about 600,000 people with epilepsy in the United States -- have intractable seizures, and another 400,000 feel they get inadequate relief from available treatments. These statistics make it clear that improved treatments for epilepsy are desperately needed.

Once epilepsy is diagnosed, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible. Research suggests that medication and other options may be less successful once seizures and their consequences become established.

The goal of epilepsy treatment is to decrease the number and severity of seizures and minimize drug side effects.

Medications Used to Treat Epilepsy

For about 80 percent of those diagnosed with epilepsy, seizures can be controlled with medicines and/or surgery. Drugs best treat the symptoms of epilepsy, but they do not cure the disease.

Since 1990, a large number of new antiepileptic drugs have been approved, increasing the treatment options available. All of these medications, even the new ones, have some side effects because antiepileptic drugs act directly on the nervous system.

Which Drug to Use

The choice of drug depends on:

The type of epilepsy. Some drugs such as Epilim are active in a wide range of seizures (tonic-clonic, absence attacks, etc.) while Zarontin, for example, is active only against absence seizures.

Possible side effects. For example, Dilantin tends to promote hair growth on the body and face, and should be avoided in women of dark complexion. Dilantin also seems more likely to produce slowing of thought processes including memory than the newer anticonvulsant such as Tegretol or Epilim, which do not usually produce these symptoms.

Anticipation of pregnancy. All anti-epileptic drugs carry a small risk to the unborn child. We will consider this question later.

Other medication. Possible interaction between the anti-epileptic drug and other medication is an important consideration. A common problem is the contraceptive pill - only Epilim appears to be free of significant interaction. Other anti-epileptic medications may make the pill less effective by speeding up its metabolism in the liver, or the pill may repay the compliment by accelerating the removal of the medication from the circulation. This does not mean that Epilim is the only anti-epileptic drug a woman may take when using the contraceptive pill but that the doctor prescribing must take this possible interaction into account.


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