Epilepsy is almost always treated first with medication. Many medications are used to treat epilepsy and seizures, however, choosing the right one can be challenging.
There is about 20 different drugs available to help prevent seizures. Each drug has its own dosage scheduling, benefits, risks and side effects. It can control seizures for 70% of people with epilepsy, however, it cannot cure epilepsy and therefore most people will need to continue taking medications for life. In order to know which medications to use, the person needs to have an accurate diagnosis of what type of epilepsy they have and not just the type of seizure because different types of seizures happen in different types of epilepsy.
The type of medications prescribed depends on several factors tailored to each individual separately such as other illnesses they may have,
and which side effects can be tolerated. What works for one person may not work for another, some medications might make seizures worse.
Epilepsy medications help stop the faulty signaling in the brain that leads to a seizure. The primary goal of medication is to have control over seizures and be free from them. At times, even when control has been established, people may still have a seizure.
There are different names doctors use to refer to Epilepsy medication such as antiepileptic drugs (AED), anticonvulsants or antiseizure drugs. In order to help determine which drug the patient should try first, their doctor will review their medical history and style of living.
Doctors may prefer their patients to take the brand name of the anticonvulsant drug and not the generic substitute. Even if patients aren’t having symptoms, they must take their antiepileptic drugs everyday as prescribed and not stop taking it without consulting their doctor first.
The doctor will most likely first prescribe a single drug at a low dosage and then increase it gradually until the patient’s seizures are controlled and prevent them from having a seizure.
However, some people may need more than one antiepileptic drug if they’ve already tried two or more single-drug courses without success, that’s when their doctor will recommend combining two drugs together.
The most common antiepileptic drugs are:
Antiepileptic drugs for generalized tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures includes lamotrigine (Lamictal), valproic acid (Depakene, Depakote), and topiramate (Topamax). For partial seizures, common antiepileptic drugs include phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal), and especially in children, ethosuximide (Zarontin). Antiepileptic seizure medications have a variety of possible side effects, some are mild, and some are more troubling.
Some examples of the mild side effects can include fatigue, dizziness, tremor, weight gain or weight loss. Examples of the more troubling side effects, which may have to be brought to a doctor’s attention include mood disruption, skin rashes, Loss of coordination, extreme fatigue, speech problems, depression, and suicidal thoughts. It is recommended to go through all the possible side effects with your doctor.