Types of epilepsy treatment
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes frequent and unprovoked seizures. You can receive a diagnosis of epilepsy if you have two or more seizures with no other known cause. The condition can appear after you’ve had a stroke, head injury, infection, or as a result of birth irregularities.
There is no cure for epilepsy, but you can manage the condition through proper treatment and lifestyle measures.
Your treatment will depend on the type of epilepsy that you have. There are 4 types:
- generalized epilepsy
- focal epilepsy
- combined generalized and focal epilepsy
- unknown epilepsy
Several methods are available for treating epilepsy, including surgery, medication, and lifestyle strategies.
Consider speaking with a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment options.
Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) are the most common treatment for epilepsy and can help control seizures in around 7 out of 10 people. They work to stop seizures by affecting chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters, which cause seizures to start. The medication is available in the following forms:
Some of the most common AEDs are:
- sodium valproate and valproic acid (Depakene, Depakote)
- carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Tegretol, Equetro)
- lamotrigine (Lamictal)
- levetiracetam (Keppra)
- topiramate (Topamax)
A healthcare professional will prescribe medication depending on the type of epilepsy and seizures you experience.
It’s important to know that taking these medications can result in some side effects, such as:
Consider speaking with a healthcare professional if you find that the side effects are impacting your day-to-day life.
A healthcare professional may suggest surgery to treat epilepsy if AEDs aren’t working or if your seizures are caused by a part of your brain that can be removed.
Tests are available to help determine if surgery is the best option. These include:
- brain scans, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- speech tests
- memory tests
- electroencephalogram (EEG), which is a recording of brain activity
The effectiveness of epilepsy surgery depends on the type of epilepsy you have and the procedure you undergo. A 2018 study of 284 people with epilepsy found that 47% remained seizure-free 5 years after surgery, while 74% experienced fewer seizures.
Several types of brain surgery can be performed to treat epilepsy, such as:
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Temporal lobe resection
This is the most common type of epilepsy surgery performed on the part of your brain in charge of hearing, memory, and language. During this procedure, part of your temporal lobe is removed to prevent or reduce seizures.
A corpus callosotomy is a procedure done to relieve symptoms of epilepsy, but it will not eliminate seizures. A surgeon will cut the corpus callosum (fibers connecting the left and right sides of the brain) to prevent seizures from spreading from one half of your brain to the other.
Deep brain stimulation
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) can help identify the brain signals causing seizures. A neurosurgeon will place a DBS device (similar to a pacemaker) into your skull, which sends electrical impulses directly to the brain, stopping the signals that cause seizures.
Once the device is in place, it can be programmed by a healthcare professional to deliver electrical currents on a preset cycle.
It’s important to know that epilepsy surgery can carry risks such as:
- cognitive changes
- reaction to anesthesia
Speak with a healthcare professional if you experience any side effects after a procedure for epilepsy.
Diet and lifestyle measures
In addition to medications and surgical procedures, you may be able to manage epilepsy symptoms through diet and lifestyle.
The ketogenic diet (also known as the keto diet) has been used since the 1920s to treat epilepsy. It focuses on foods that are high in fat and low in carbohydrates. It can help to reduce the number of seizures in people with epilepsy.
A 2019 research review found that the keto diet and its variants proved to be an effective alternative for people with epilepsy who are unable to have surgery.
People with epilepsy can choose to follow a keto diet tailored to them and may see results after a more extended period. They should continue taking antiseizure medications while following a keto diet.
Some factors can increase the risk of seizures in people with epilepsy, such as:
Several lifestyle measures can help you manage your epilepsy. These include:
- yoga and meditation, to reduce stress
- avoiding or reducing consumption of alcohol
- closely monitoring your medication to ensure you’re not missing doses
Several natural remedies may help you manage epilepsy, such as:
- cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabis
- herbs and roots, such as valerian root and turmeric
- aromatherapy with oils such as lavender
- vitamins, such as vitamin B6 and vitamin E
It’s important to remember that natural remedies shouldn’t replace antiepileptic drugs and can sometimes interfere with them. Speak with a healthcare professional before starting any natural remedy for epilepsy.
While epilepsy has no cure, there are many ways to manage the condition effectively, and some people with epilepsy can even experience a period without seizures and symptoms.
Treatments such as medication, surgery, and lifestyle measures can help you manage the condition, leading to an overall improved quality of life.
Consider speaking with a healthcare professional about what treatment options may work best for you.
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- Brain stimulation therapies for epilepsy. (n.d.). https://www.ninds.nih.gov/about-ninds/impact/ninds-contributions-approved-therapies/brain-stimulation-therapies-epilepsy
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- Epilepsy: Treatment. (2020). https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/epilepsy/treatment/
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