Just as there isn't one single type of epilepsy, there isn't one single treatment that will work for the three million Americans who suffer from this neurological disorder.

Here's a rundown of the most common therapies relied upon by people with epilepsy:


Fortunately, most people with epilepsy can completely eliminate their seizures by taking one anti-seizure medication, and a significant portion of the rest can reduce the severity and frequency of their seizures. In fact, many people are able to get off medication completely after being seizure-free for a few years, including more than half of kids whose epilepsy is controlled by drugs. There are a variety of anti-seizure medications on the market. While all have side effects, they are mostly mild and may include fatigue, dizziness, and weight gain.


If you've tried anti-seizure medication and it isn't working, your doctor may suggest surgery. Surgery may be appropriate if your epilepsy involves just a small area of your brain that isn't responsible for controlling vital functions. (This area of brain may be removed completely.) If your epilepsy stems from a part of the brain that can't be removed, surgery may still prove helpful. In this case, a surgeon will make a series of cuts in the affected area in order to prevent the seizures from traveling to other parts of the brain. Many epileptics still need seizure-preventing medication after surgery, but often in smaller doses. In a few cases, surgery may affect cognitive abilities.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation

A vagus nerve stimulator is placed inside the chest, similar to a heart pacemaker. The stimulator has wires that wrap around the vagus nerve in the neck. The vagus nerve runs from the brain to the neck down past the chest to the abdomen. At regular intervals, the device emits electrical impulses that travel through the vagus nerve to the brain, enabling it to reduce seizure activity (and completely stop it in about five percent of people who try this therapy). On the down side, vagus nerve stimulation may cause coughing, hoarseness, and throat pain.

Ketogenic Diet

The ketogenic diet is an extreme form of low-carb dieting. It involves maintaining a strict high-fat, low-carbohydrate eating regimen. This allows the body to break down fat for energy instead of carbs, which reduces epileptic seizures in some children. This controversial therapy has found devoted followers among parents of epileptic children whose seizures do not respond to more conventional treatments. There is a danger of malnourishment on this diet, however, so doctors recommend that anyone considering it be medically supervised, possibly in a hospital setting.




Mayo Clinic. "Epilepsy: Treatments and Drugs." Web.  28 April 2011. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/epilepsy/DS00342/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs