Over the past two decades, the treatment options available for patients with epilepsy have improved greatly. While there is not a cure for epilepsy, when patients get the right treatment, they can effectively manage their condition. The following are some of the best options of treatment for epilepsy. Doctors need to caution patients that epilepsy treatments that works for one person may not work for another and each treatment plan is individualized.
For most patients, the first course of treatment is anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). Many patients will actually respond well with drug therapy, but they need to be diligent about taking their medications. There are multiple drugs on the market used to help epileptics control their seizures. If one medication does not work, the doctors will typically move on to a different medication in the hopes they will find something that works well.
Even though the medications might help with the seizures, they will sometimes have other side effects. This can include headaches, drowsiness, and dizziness. Patients need to work with the doctors to try to find a medication that has no side effects, or at least very few, and that still helps them to control their seizures. Doctors need to stress the importance of communication with their patients. The patients need to let the doctors know whenever there are any potential complications with the medication.
Others who do not respond well to any medications will continue to have seizures and need to talk with the doctor about other possible types of therapy they could use.
2. Vagus Nerve Stimulation
The Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) has earned the nickname of "pacemaker for the brain”. It is a device implanted into the patient's body and acts as a generator. The VNS is connected to the vagus nerve in the neck via a wire. The device sends electrical signals to the nerve, which passes the signals on to the brain in the hopes that it will prevent seizures before they start. This type of treatment is relatively new, but it has proven to be very effective in many cases. While it might not be able to stop all seizures that a patient might have, it can reduce the number of seizures as well as their severity.
Many doctors will consider this type of therapy after they have exhausted other options. Those who do not respond well to drug therapy could be good candidates for this course of action. Click HERE to read RSC’s blog post on VNS and learn how to determine if you are a candidate for this kind of treatment.
Some patients may find that epilepsy surgery is a viable option. However, it is important for doctors to let the patient know that very few people qualify for surgery. The surgeon must locate the exact spot in the brain where the seizures begin and then remove that part of the brain. The danger is that this sensitive procedure must happen without affecting any other parts of the patient's brain; otherwise, brain damage could occur in well-functioning parts of the brain. While it is possible, this is generally a last resort and not all patients will qualify for this treatment.
4. Deep Brain Stimulation
Some patients are opting for deep brain stimulation (DBS). DBS may help epileptics who do not respond to medication and who are unable to have brain surgery. In this new surgical technique, an implant is placed in the upper part of the chest just below the collarbone. The implant, called a neuro-stimulator, uses a battery and wire system that sends electrical impulses to the brain. DBS is expected to decrease the number of seizures a person suffers over time. It is important to note that DBS is not a cure and it will not entirely rid a person of seizures.
5. Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana, or cannabis, contains over 60 different compounds, but the two main and best-known compounds are THC and CBD. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is responsible for causing the effects of marijuana that most refer to as "being high". CBD, or cannabidiol, does not cause this effect.
Research results have been varied, and much of what is known is merely anecdotal evidence that comes from patients, many who say they experience fewer seizures when using medical marijuana.
Studies are currently being conducted on a new drug called Epidiolex from GW Pharmaceuticals, which contains a purified oil extract of CBD. The results of the first open study were astounding. Those who took this medication for twelve weeks saw, on average, an impressive 54 percent decrease in the number of seizures.
Doctors and patients need to have open lines of communication when it comes to finding the right treatment. Each person’s epilepsy is unique so finding the treatment that works best is a highly individualized approach.
Which treatments for epilepsy have you or your friend/family member tried to manage seizures?