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The first line of treatment is medication. There are many anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) available to treat epilepsy. A small majority of people with epilepsy will find their seizures controlled by medication, though many will require more than one drug. The goal of treatment with medication is complete seizure control with as few medications and side effects as possible.

The most common side effects associated with epilepsy medicines are: drowsiness, irritability, nausea, rash, and clumsiness. Some drugs produce changes in emotions, memory or behavior, or affect learning. In many cases, side effects occur at the beginning of treatment and may become less troublesome or even disappear as the body adjusts. Starting out at high doses may also increase side effects; therefore, most epilepsy drugs are usually started at gradually increasing doses.

It is crtically important to take epilepsy medications in the dose and at the times prescribed. Blood levels of medications are important with many epilepsy drugs. If the levels are too low, the medication will be ineffective. If it is too high, toxic side-effects can result. Your doctor may order blood tests to check the level of medication in your blood. Learn more about epilepsy medications.

Herbal supplements can be dangerous for people with seizures. It is important that you tell your doctor about all the prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal substances that you are taking.

VNSVagus Nerve Stimulation

Vagus Nerve Stimulation is a relatively new treatment involving simple surgery that is usually performed on an outpatient basis. A generator is implanted under the skin in the left chest wall. A lead is run up the neck and attached to the left vagus nerve. The generator is then programmed to deliver periodic electrical charges up the vagus nerve to the brain. A magnet accompanying the device can be used to trigger the generator if a seizure has begun or you feel one is about to begin. For many people, vagus nerve stimulation reduces the frequency of seizures. Most people continue to take medication, though in many cases the number or dosages of their medications are reduced. For more information about Vagus Nerve Stimulation, visit Cyberonics.


People with partial seizures whose seizures are not controlled by other means may be candidates for brain surgery. The evaluation for surgery is extensive and is only performed if the affected part of the brain can be removed without causing deficits in vital areas. Seizure surgery may be considered for patients with partial seizures who have not responded to two or three medications given in adequate doses for long enough periods of time. Learn more about seizure surgery.

ketogenic dietKetogenic Diet

Using primarily with children whose seizures have not responded to other treatments, the ketogenic diet is a strictly monitored diet high in fats and low in carbohydrates. When rigidly adhered to and fine-tuned by a medical team, it has been shown to help two out of three children with epilepsy. If the diet seems to be working, doctors will usually prescribe it for two years. Learn more about the ketogenic diet.

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