Generally, epilepsy is successfully treated with antiepileptic medications. 60%-70% of people diagnosed with epilepsy will gain seizure control with medication. Others may continue to have seizures, but less frequently.
When seizures continue to recur even with medication, other treatment options such as surgery, stimulation of the vagus nerve, or, especially in children, the ketogenic diet may be considered.
In the hope of seizure control, complementary therapies are often explored. Any consideration given to complementary therapies should be thoroughly researched and discussed with your treating doctor.
For people whose seizures cannot be controlled by medication, epilepsy can affect health, safety, work, driving, relationships and more. If this is the case, make an appointment with a health specialist or GP to discuss the other treatment options that may be available, or call our epilepsy helpline on 1300 852 853 and speak to one of our trained staff.
A strong support network can make all the difference for people with epilepsy and those around them, so become a Friend of Epilepsy Tasmania and benefit from ongoing support, friendship and advice.
Treatment for epilepsy is usually with antiepileptic drugs.
For many people, medication makes it possible to live normal, active lives that are free of seizures, or less frequent.
Seizure medication can interact with other medications including the contraceptive pill and some common over-the-counter treatments so it is important to check with a doctor, pharmacist or other medical practitioners.
Epilepsy is sometimes caused by an area of abnormal brain tissue. The size and position of the area – referred to as the epilepsy focus – varies between individuals, but surgically removing the epilepsy focus can sometimes prevent seizures. The chance of successful surgery and the risks of complications differ for each patient.
Surgery is usually only used where medication fails and is not intended to be a substitute for medication. If surgery is considered to be a possible treatment for epilepsy, several months of extensive testing and counselling are undertaken before surgery is performed.
Ask your doctor whether this treatment option is suitable for you.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy
Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy uses a small medical device to send small electrical pulses to the left vagus nerve in the neck.
This nerve is connected to areas in the brain that are instrumental in producing seizures, and stimulating it has the potential to reduce abnormal seizure activity.
Implanting a vagus nerve stimulator is generally only considered if antiepileptic drugs are not controlling the seizures satisfactorily and other surgical options have been ruled out. Your neurologist can determine if this treatment is an option for you.
The Ketogenic diet is a strict, medically supervised diet that may be a treatment option for some children with epilepsy.
It involves a restricted fluid, high fat and very low carbohydrate and protein diet that ensures the body will burn fat rather than carbohydrate and protein for energy, thus producing ketones. In some ways, the diet mimics the body’s metabolic state during fasting or illness.
The ketogenic diet is generally only suitable for children with poorly controlled seizures. Generally, young children with mixed myoclonic seizure disorders are thought to respond best to the ketogenic diet.
Assessment by a paediatric neurologist experienced in epilepsy management and monitoring of the diet and drug therapy is a prerequisite. Some centres have reported success with adult patients and patients with other epilepsies.