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Health Issues

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Epilepsy

Treatment and Care

If an underlying cause for recurrent seizures (such as infection) has been identified and treated, seizures may stop. Treatment may include surgery to remove a tumor, an abnormal or bleeding blood vessel, or other brain problems.

Medication to prevent seizures, called anti-convulsants, may reduce the number of future seizures. These drugs are taken by mouth.

  • The type of medicine you take depends on what type of seizures you are having. The dosage may need to be adjusted from time to time.
  • Some seizure types respond well to one medication and may respond poorly (or even be made worse) by others. Some medications need to be monitored for side effects and blood levels.
  • It is very important that you take your medication on time and at the correct dose. Most people taking these drugs need regular checkups and regular blood tests to make sure they are receiving the correct dosage.
  • You should not stop taking or change medications without talking to your doctor first.

Some factors increase the risk for a seizure in a person with epilepsy. Talk with your doctor about:

  • Certain prescribed medications
  • Emotional stress
  • Illness, especially infection
  • Lack of sleep
  • Pregnancy
  • Skipping doses of epilepsy medications
  • Use of alcohol or other recreational drugs

Epilepsy that does not get better after two or three seizure drugs have been tried is called "medically refractory epilepsy."

  • Some patients with this type of epilepsy may benefit from brain surgery to remove the abnormal brain cells that are causing the seizures.
  • Others may be helped by a vagal nerve stimulator. This is a device that is implanted in the chest (similar to a heart pacemaker). This stimulator can help reduce the number of seizures, but rarely stops the seizures completely.

Sometimes, children are placed on a special diet to help prevent seizures. The most popular one is the ketogenic diet. A diet low in carbohydrates, such as the Atkins diet, may also be helpful in some adults.

Persons with epilepsy should wear medical alert jewelry so that prompt medical treatment can be obtained if a seizure occurs