What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a condition that has been around since ancient times, and it is the fourth most common neurological disorder. This condition is caused by sudden disruptions to the nerve cell activity within the brain. Due to these nerve cell disruptions, people with epilepsy have recurring instances of seizures. During an epilepsy seizure, a person may faint, convulse, behave abnormally, have muscle spasms, or experience feelings of pins and needles. Seizures can last anywhere between a few seconds to extended periods of time. Even when a person is not experiencing a seizure, they may deal with symptoms like anxiety, depression, headaches, and insomnia.
How Is Epilepsy Treated?
There are a few different methods available for treating epilepsy. The condition can be caused by genetics, brain damage, or a variety of other factors, so there is no way to completely cure it. However, there are excellent treatment options that reduce the chances of seizures. Some people who take the right treatments can eventually quit having seizures altogether. Most epilepsy treatments rely on taking medications that prevent seizures. There are many different medications that this article will discuss in greater detail later on.
If medications are not proving effective, another option may be surgery. Epilepsy surgery is a type of brain surgery that will involve surgeons removing the part of the brain that keeps triggering your seizures. Surgery is normally only recommended if a small portion of the brain is responsible for all your seizures and this area of the brain is not responsible for speech, motor function, vision, hearing, or language. Another type of surgery that can help with epilepsy is a small device that is implanted in the chest. It is a stimulator that sends pulses of electricity to your vagus nerve and brain, and it can help to reduce seizure frequency by up to 40 percent.
Medication and surgery are the most effective ways of dealing with epilepsy, but other options are being developed. Some people find that eating a ketogenic diet, which is high in fat and low in carbohydrates, can help to reduce epilepsy symptoms. There are also external devices that can work like a vagus nerve stimulator without needing to be implanted with surgery.
Medications for Treating Epilepsy
There are constantly new developments in epilepsy treatments. Most of the latest inventions focus on creating effective medications that do not have as many side effects as earlier options. Roughly 60 percent of people respond to the first one or two drugs used in an attempt to halt seizures. If these do not work, only 3 percent of the remaining patients can find a drug that successfully halts their seizures. Your doctor will work with you to find a medication that helps to control seizures for your unique situation. Here are some of the most common medications:
Also called Lacosamide, this medication can help with temporal lobe epilepsy, complex partial seizures, simple partial seizures, and bilateral tonic clonic seizures. It is a narrow spectrum AED that mostly works to inhibit seizures by enhancing the sodium channel slow inactivation. This slows down the sodium channels in the brain and gives cells a chance to recover between seizures. Side effects may include blurry vision, nausea, drowsiness, headache, dizziness, and fatigue.
This narrow spectrum AED works to manage partial seizures. It is helpful because it has a structure similar to GABA, a neurotransmitter that keeps brain cells from firing too rapidly. Its ability to slow down brain cell firing rate manages to stop seizures right as they start. Common side effects for Lyrica include weight gain, bloating, tremors, unusual gaits, fatigue, and trouble concentrating.
Aptiom is a narrow spectrum AED that helps to treat partial onset seizures. Aptiom helps to slow brain signals between sodium channels which keeps the neurons from firing rapidly. Unlike some other sodium channel slowing drugs, Aptiom binds to the inactivated sodium channels which are more likely to exist when a seizure is about to occur. Patients who use Aptiom may find that they feel nausea, sleepiness, headaches, double vision, coordination difficulties, shakiness, and sleepiness.
Also sold as topiramate XR and Qudexy XR, this broad spectrum AED medication has multiple mechanisms that all work together to slow the rate of brain cells. It blocks sodium channels, enhances GABA activity, antagonizes NMDA-glutamate receptors, and inhibits carbonic anhydrase. All of these effects keep brain cells firing below the rate needed to result in a seizure. Those who take Trokendi XR may feel a tingling in their legs, a loss of appetite, weight loss, changes in taste, sleepiness, nausea, and diarrhea.
This is a narrow spectrum AED used to treat focal or partial seizures in patients. Though the exact reason the drug works is not fully understood, researchers find that it helps to block the sodium channels in the brain. This keeps electrical activity from spreading between cells, so it helps to stop the trigger for a seizure from affecting the entire brain. Side effects for Oxtellar XR include difficulty with coordination, blurred or double vision, drowsiness, headaches, and dizziness.
Also known as valproic acid, Depakene is a broad spectrum AED that can treat almost every type of seizure associated with epilepsy. It helps to increase production of GABA in the brain and keep GABA from breaking down after it is produced. This helps to slow the rate of nerve cell firing in the brain, so it can halt a wide range of seizures. The medication’s side effects include weight gain, hair loss, tremors, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, depression, and irritability.