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Our approach

At Cohen Children’s, we implement individualized anti-epilepsy medication plans with the goal of eliminating or drastically reducing seizures caused by epilepsy in childhood. There are many factors that affect a child’s reaction to anti-epilepsy medications. Our physicians will work with you and your child to find the proper medication and dose to improve your child’s quality of life and overall function.

Overview

Epilepsy is a disorder that affects the nervous system. The primary symptom of epilepsy is seizures, a sudden surge of disruptive electrical activity in the brain that affects how a person feels or acts for a brief amount of time. Most of the time, epilepsy can be treated with anti-seizure medications.

The type of treatment your doctor prescribes will depend on several factors, including the frequency and severity of the seizures, your age, overall health and medical history. An accurate diagnosis of the type of epilepsy is also critical to choosing the best treatment.

The choice of drugs used to treat epilepsy is most often based on factors like tolerance of the side effects, other illnesses, and the medication's delivery method. In general, medications control seizures in about 70 percent of people.

Some common medications used to control seizures include:

  • Oxcarbazepine
  • Carbamazepine
  • Clobazam
  • Clonazepam
  • Ethosuximide
  • Gabapentin
  • Lacosamide
  • Valproic acid
  • Topiramate
  • Lamotrigine

Your doctor will most likely have you begin at a lower dose than what you may actually need to get rid of your seizures. This method may postpone the desired outcome, but it will also decrease the severity of side effects from the medication, making it more likely that your long-term treatment plan is a success. Over time, your physician will increase your dose until you have reached the optimal requirement.  

Risks and side effects

Each anti-epilepsy medication affects each person differently. The occurrence of side effects depends on the dose, type of medication and length of treatment. Side effects are more common with higher doses, but tend to become less severe over time as the body adjusts. Some common side effects include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness or unsteadiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Memory and thinking problems
  • Weight gain

Because all anti-epilepsy medications can cause problems with blood counts or internal organs, you will need to get screened before you begin your treatment plan and have close follow up tests to make sure the medications are not causing harm to your body.

The United States Food and Drug Administration warns that anti-epilepsy drugs can cause depression and suicidal thoughts. Be sure to report any serious depression or suicidal thinking to your doctor.

While there is no cure for epilepsy, many times patients can be taken off treatment after a few years. For others, lifelong treatment may be necessary.