Once a diagnosis of epilepsy has been confirmed, a neurologist will recommend a treatment plan.

In the majority of cases seizures associated with epilepsy can be controlled with medication, but up to a third of people have drug resistant epilepsy, which means that other treatments may be more suitable.

Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs)

Antiepileptic medication is normally the first choice of treatment for epilepsy. AEDs are available in a range of doses and forms, such as tablets, liquids and syrups, nasal sprays, injections, and suppositories. These are all prescribed free of charge.

Drug treatments are tailored to suit each individual, achieving maximum seizure control with minimum side effects on the lowest possible dose of a single drug.

The majority of people with epilepsy will achieve seizure control with one AED (called monotherapy), but some will require treatment with two or more drugs (known as polytherapy).

In addition there are specific AEDs which are used to treat serial seizures and status epilepticus, which is a condition in which seizures persist for 30 minutes or more. It can occur with all types of seizures, but with tonic clonic seizures it represents a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment if it lasts for more than 5 minutes.

For more information visit out ‘What is Epilepsy?’ section here

Aside from antiepileptic medication, other treatments for epilepsy include:

to control seizures and/or scans and imaging techniques have been able to precisely identify the region in the brain from where the epileptic activity emanates. Having identified this area of the brain it is also vital to ensure that its removal will not cause damage or disability.

A decision to undergo surgery is a difficult one and a full assessment by a specialist team is necessary before the person with epilepsy and the team can make a fully informed decision. The assessment involves many tests and may take up to a year to conclude. But for those for whom surgery is suitable, it can be life changing.

A vagus nerve stimulator is a small device that is surgically implanted near the left collarbone in an operation which takes approximately an hour. It is attached to the vagus nerve and is individually programmed to send electrical messages to the brain to reduce the frequency and duration of seizures.

It is an option where AEDs have failed to adequately control seizures and where surgery is not an option. Most people will still need to take medication.

The ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carbohydrate diet sometimes recommended for children with uncontrolled, refractory epilepsy. It is based on a high fat, low carbohydrate intake and needs to be carefully worked out and monitored by a dietitian.

Whilst there is evidence that medical-grade preparations of an active ingredient of cannabis, cannabidiol, can be beneficial in some types of epilepsy, cannabis oil itself cannot be considered a safe or effective treatment.

This is due to the variety of compounds found in over-the-counter cannabis oils, some of which may have harmful effects. People with epilepsy and their families should consult with their epilepsy specialist doctor for advice as to treatment options.

Through the incredible efforts of our supporters over the last twelve months, we are delighted that Epilepsy Research UK was able to make £1.3 million available for our 2020 grant awards.

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