Epilepsy: The Process of Diagnosis and Treatment. Part 2

How Is it Treated?

There are many different treatments for epilepsy including medications, diet and surgery. Doctors will normally try drug therapy first to see if the seizures can become controlled. The doctor will select a medication or combine more than one medication that target the specific type or types of seizure the patient is experiencing. It is not unusual for epilepsy patients to be on more than one medication. Medications will not immediately stop seizure activity. It takes time for the medication to build in the bloodstream to a therapeutic level (the amount of medication in the bloodstream that is sufficient to control seizures). There are specific guidelines for each medication as to how much a patient should have depending on age and weight. The doctor will perform regular blood tests to monitor the level of medication in the bloodstream as well as to check for possible side effects of the medication. Not all medications work on all patients, it may take a long time to find the best medication or combination of medications and also the proper level to help control the patient’s seizures. Complete control is the goal, but is not always possible. The doctor will continue to work with the patient to maintain as much control as possible.

In children, a diet known as the Ketogenic Diet may be helpful in controlling seizures. This diet is specially designed to raise ketone levels in the blood, which may, for some individuals, help control seizures. It is very important to consult a physician before trying this particular diet, and a doctor should maintain close supervision as this diet can be dangerous if not managed correctly. Extra doses of vitamin B6 have also proved to have some success reducing seizure activity in some patients.

When controlling seizures becomes difficult after trying several medications, surgery may be recommended. One such surgery is the implantation of the Vagus Nerve Stimulator (VNS). The VNS has been called the “Pacemaker for the Brain,” and some epilepsy patients have been able to get complete control of their seizures without medication after the VNS has been implanted. During the surgery, doctors implant the VNS in the chest wall and a lead wire up to the Vagus Nerve. The VNS is stimulated by magnets to help stop a seizure. Just as with medications, it may take a while to get the VNS set to the correct level, but when the proper level is found, many patients find good control with few side effects.

It is important to remember that there is not one treatment option that works for all patients. Doctors work with their patients to find the best solution for that individual. If so inclined, a patient may ask for a second opinion. Go into this meeting armed with a complete medical history as well as a list of medications given and a list of any side effects from these medications.

How Will Epilepsy Affect Me?

It is important to remember that epilepsy is very treatable and is not generally a fatal disorder. Most patients with epilepsy can find a good level of control and possibly complete control over seizures. While there are some limitations for individuals with epilepsy when driving or operating heavy equipment (laws vary state to state), with treatment, most epilepsy patients find that their lives can be very fulfilling and that their epilepsy doesn’t hinder them. A good relationship and good communication with their doctor, and a caring support system, can make a large difference to the mental well-being of the patient. Finding a local support group can also help an individual learn more about their condition, talk with others also living with epilepsy and give the patient a strong support system. With proper care and supervision by a doctor, an epileptic patient can live a normal, healthy, productive life.

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