The good news is that treatments are available that can successfully prevent seizures for most people with epilepsy. The first treatment almost always is one of the many seizure medicines. If one treatment fails, others may be more successful.
The first step toward getting treatment for seizures is to see a doctor! The doctor may make a diagnosis of epilepsy (the doctor might call it a seizure disorder). This step usually will involve some diagnostic tests.
Then comes the treatment. There are many seizure medicines. Each one tends to work better for certain kinds of seizures than for others. The doctor chooses one based on the type of seizure, the person's age, and whether the person has any other medical conditions. The doctor then will usually discuss how to take the medicine, what side effects to look for, and when to come back for a follow-up visit.
What You Need To Do
It's a good idea to find out as much as you can about epilepsy, the treatment, and what you can do to help control the seizures.
Ask your doctor questions. There is no stupid question. Epilepsy.com is a great place to find answers, too!
If the doctor recommends a seizure medicine, learn as much as you can about it, including when and how to take it. Then be sure to follow the doctor's directions. Seizure medicines must be taken each and every day as prescribed. If the right amount is not taken at the right time, the medicine may not be able to prevent seizures.
Before you visit your doctor
After you visit your doctor
If The First Treatment Fails
The first seizure medicine that is prescribed may not prevent seizures for some people, even if they follow the doctor's directions completely. Keep a record of seizures and let the doctor know if they continue to happen. Then the doctor may prescribe a larger amount of the medicine.
If seizures still continue, the doctor might prescribe another medicine instead of the first one, or a combination of more than one medicine. No single combination of seizure medicines is best for everyone. It may be necessary to try a series of combinations to find which one works best.
The primary care doctor also may refer the person to a neurologist (a doctor who specializes in disorders of the nervous system, including the brain) or an epileptologist (a neurologist who specializes in epilepsy) if the first medicine or two are unsuccessful.
Doctors know that if the first few medicines fail to stop a person's seizures, the chances are not so good that a different medicine will be completely successful. Then it may be time to consider some other type of treatment.
In addition to medicines, other treatments include the ketogenic diet, vagus nerve stimulation, brain surgery, and investigational treatments. Whether one of these is likely to succeed depends on factors like the person's age and the type of seizures, similar to the way a medicine is selected. They are not always successful, but some people do become seizure-free after several medicines have failed. These treatments are usually prescribed and carried out only by specialists.
People with epilepsy who have not yet found a successful treatment may read or hear news stories about devices and medicines that are supposed to be better. They wonder whether their doctor should prescribe them instead. It's almost certainly true that better treatments will be available in the future, but it takes years of careful testing to make sure that new things are really safe and effective before a lot of patients start using them.
The first step is to discuss this with your doctor, to understand the status of new treatments and clinical studies. Ask your doctor.