Epilepsy is a neurological disorder that typically entails a lifelong susceptibility to sporadic seizures. With over 3 million people affected by epilepsy in the U.S. alone, there is no cure as of yet. However, many treatment strategies are available to help in treating epilepsy.
Most cases of epilepsy are managed by a neurologist or an epileptologist, who offer several treatment options (described below).
The most common method used to treat epilepsy is prescribing patients antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), which help minimize the occurrence of seizures. According to research at the Cleveland Clinic Epilepsy Center, medications work effectively to control seizures in nearly three-quarters of all patients. After long periods without seizures, patients are sometimes able to slowly decrease their dosage and intake frequency.
Given certain social stigmas and lifestyle limitations associated with epilepsy, some patients are prescribed antidepressants to curb secondary psychological effects, such as depression and anxiety.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy
Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) therapy entails implanting a small device under the skin of the left side of the chest, which is programmed by the patient’s neurologist to send impulses to the brain through the vagus nerve. The device itself is about an inch-and-a-half in diameter and lasts up to 10 years, at which point it needs to be replaced.
Given the high-risk nature of surgery, doctors usually only recommend this method for patients with a multiple year history of uncontrolled seizures. Surgery is typically recommended for patients with partial epilepsy as the specific source of the seizures needs to be identifiable. The problem area is then resected and the patient is considered to be surgically cured.
Another procedure, known as disruption surgery, involves the disconnection of certain neural pathways in specific areas of the brain in hopes of inhibiting irregular, seizure-causing impulses. This procedure is usually chosen when the removal of a problem area is not an option, either because it is dangerously close to a vital area or it is a vital area itself. Disruption surgeries are not considered to be surgical cures as they only provide symptom relief, rather than symptom elimination through the removal of an area directly causing seizures.
Maintaining a diet high in fats and low in carbohydrates, known as a ketogenic diet, has been shown to reduce the frequency of seizure occurrences. However, the diet is not typically recommended for children unless they are experiencing severe and prolonged clusters of uncontrolled seizures.
Other non-medical treatment strategies include acupuncture, nutritional supplements, meditation, chiropractic therapy, and physical exercise routines.
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