If you or a loved one has been recently diagnosed with epilepsy, it can feel overwhelming. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that causes recurrent seizures in millions of people.
In this blog, we’ll look at the various treatment options available, including medication, lifestyle changes, and alternative therapies.
First, though, let’s take a brief look into healthcare services.
What can you expect after a suspected seizure?
Different laws and rules can change the way treatment programs are managed in certain countries. The following information is based on health services in the UK.
If your GP suspects you’ve had an epileptic seizure, they will refer you to an epilepsy specialist. You should see this specialist within 2 weeks of your GP referring you. This may vary depending on how many appointments are available in your area.
The epilepsy specialist will ask you about your seizure. This will include what happened before, during and after your seizure. They may also ask if you experience any other epilepsy symptoms. This information will help them make an accurate diagnosis.
You should use this appointment to voice your concerns and ask questions. If you’re not sure what to ask, take a look at these questions to discuss with your doctor.
After an epilepsy diagnosis, your doctor will discuss your treatment options.
While there is no cure for epilepsy, there are various treatment options that control seizures and improve quality of life. The most common treatment for epilepsy is anti-seizure medication (ASM), also known as anti-epileptic drugs (AED).
ASMs are prescribed drugs that aim to prevent seizures. It does this by balancing the chemicals in your brain that lead to seizures. ASMs should be taken regularly, as prescribed by your doctor, for the most benefit. Here is a full list of anti-seizure medications.
The following treatments are usually offered after a person has tried more than one medicine and these have not worked to control their seizures. This type of epilepsy is known as drug-resistant epilepsy
Some patients with epilepsy fit the criteria for brain surgery or neurosurgery. The types of surgery performed for epilepsy vary. This depends on the age of the person having surgery and the types of seizures they have.
70% of people who had temporal lobe surgery reported a significant reduction in seizures. Many have stated that they were seizure-free as a result.
As with any surgery, brain surgery has its risks. Your doctor will address them as well as your concerns and questions in advance of your surgery.
Another option that has shown promise is the ketogenic diet (also known as keto). Keto is a high-fat, low-carb diet that is being used to treat epilepsy in children and adults. It mimics the effects of fasting, which calms down the part of the brain that causes hyperactivity. As a result, this helps to reduce seizures and improve mental function.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy
Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) therapy is an add-on treatment aimed at reducing seizure frequency and severity.
A small device is implanted under the skin in the chest and connects to the vagus nerve in your neck. The device sends mild electrical pulses to the brain through the vagus nerve. The aim is to help prevent seizures by controlling irregular electrical brain activity that leads to seizures.
Some people with epilepsy might not use any of the listed treatments if they are well aware of their seizure triggers and can avoid them. Speak to your epilepsy specialist to see if this is a safe option for you. Whether receiving treatment or not, you can benefit from the tips below.
- Make your home a safe place in the event of a seizure
Making a few small changes can make a big difference to your safety at home in the case of a seizure. Consider using soft furnishings to cover hard flooring, and keep your space tidy. This will help prevent injury in the case of a seizure.
- Invest in an epilepsy alarm
An epilepsy alarm helps detect and manage a wide range of seizures, providing peace of mind for you and your family.
- Seek support
You may also be eligible for practical support and help in dealing with your condition. Apply through your local authority for a needs assessment to see if this is the case.
Managing epilepsy can be a challenging journey. But with the right treatment options and lifestyle changes, you can live a full life. From medications to alternative therapies, there are various approaches available to help you effectively manage your epilepsy.
Don’t hesitate to reach out for support and guidance along the way – Epilepsy Society and Epilepsy Action offer a confidential helpline for those affected by epilepsy. You’re not alone in this journey.