For people who suffer from epilepsy, or another disorder that causes seizures, adequate seizure control is extremely important so that the person can lead a normal life. Just as there are a number of types of seizures, epilepsy, and a variety of causes, the treatment option that works best for seizure control will vary from person to person. In most cases, seizures can be completely controlled, or minimized by the use of one of the available conventional treatment options.
Anticonvulsant medication is the first line of treatment for people with recurrent seizures. These medications completely control seizures in 50% of people with epilepsy, and in another 20% of people the number of seizures they have will be greatly reduced. Anticonvulsant medications have side effects, and in the beginning the medication may require a fair amount of tweaking. Sometimes the first medication doesn’t work as well as desired and a new medication must be tried, or dosages adjusted. Certain medications can require frequent blood test to check to see if the medication is at a therapeutic level. All of this may get frustrating, but in the end, if seizure control is achieved and maintained, it will be well worth it.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation
Vagus nevre stimulation for seizure control is a fairly new therapy that is used in people for whom medication is not effective, and for those who have seizures in one specific part of the brain. A small device is implanted under the skin on the chest and electrodes are attached to the vagus nerve, a large nerve in the neck. The physician programs the device to send a mild electrical shock to the vagus nerve every few minutes, and this in turn may control seizures. The exact reason why this vagus nerve stimulation works is yet unknown.
Ketogenic or Atkins Diet for Children
The ketogenic and Atkins diet have both been shown to provide significant improvement in seizure control in children with intractable seizures. Both diets, through various food restrictions, are intended to place the body into a state called ketosis. When the body is in ketosis it begins for burn fat as its energy source rather than carbohydrates. Children who are able to achieve ketosis on one of these diets may see up to a 90% reduction in the number of seizures that they experience.
Surgery is a conventional therapy for seizure control that is used for in people whose seizures originate in a very specific part of the brain, and for whom medication treatment has failed. Extensive testing is done prior to the surgery to pinpoint where in the brain the seizures are happening. The surgery then focuses on further pinpointing, and removing the offending part of the brain. The patient is often awake when this very specialized surgery is performed so that the surgeon can determine if essential parts of the brain may be effected by the removal of certain tissue areas and then avoid them. Since the brain feels no pain, being awake during the surgery does not hurt.
I worked as an R.N. on a neurosurgery unit in a very large teaching hospital in Seattle, and I was able to observe one of these surgeries, known as a seizure focus removal. It was extraordinarily fascinating and it can be very effective for those who have been unable to maintain seizure control using any other method. This type of surgery is only performed at hospital facilities with high level neurosurgical doctors and staff.
For those who have epilepsy, seeing a top notch neurologist is the best choice to be able to explore all of the options for seizure control. While the trial and error process of finding the treatment option that works best for you may take time and patience, a good physician will leave no stone unturned in helping your control your seizures.
Epilepsy: Treatment Options