Treatment for epilepsy aims to control seizures, although not everyone with the condition will need to be treated. It may sometimes be possible to control epilepsy solely by avoiding specific epilepsy triggers, such as sleep deprivation and alcohol.
Some people will need treatment through their life, whilst other people only have epilepsy for a short period so they may or may not require treatment.
Anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) are usually the first choice of treatment and around 70% of people are able to control their seizures with these. There are many types of AED and each medicine may have different side effects. For more information about AEDs, visit the Epilepsy Society website.
It is possible to treat some types of epilepsy with brain surgery to stop seizures, reduce the number of seizures experienced or make them less severe. There are many types of brain surgery for epilepsy. To find out more about these, visit the Epilepsy Action website.
If surgery is not an option, an alternative may be to implant a small device under the skin of the chest. The device sends electrical messages to the brain. This is called vagus nerve stimulation.
Your epilepsy consultant and GP will work closely with you to find the right epilepsy treatments for you and to monitor your progress.
Helping someone who is having a seizure
If you know someone with epilepsy, it would be beneficial to talk to them about what you should do if they have a seizure. People with certain types of epilepsy may fall and hurt themselves, so learning some first aid would be beneficial. There is a wealth of information about treating injuries on the Red Cross website.
If a person is having a convulsive seizure, it can be very concerning for those around them but usually they will not require medical attention unless their seizure does not stop after 5 minutes. In this case, you should dial 999 for an ambulance.
Epilepsy and employment
Having epilepsy does not necessarily stop someone from doing the job they want, but there are some issues which can affect them at work. For example, if you have seizures, how severe they are and how often you experience them will determine whether your work is affected. It also depends on the type of work you do, and any risks that having seizures at work might bring.
Epilepsy and driving
It’s very likely you will have to stop driving, which can have a big impact on your life. Find out more about driving rules when you have a seizure or a diagnosis of epilepsy by visiting the DVLA website.
If you are a young person with epilepsy you may be concerned how the condition will affect your education, hobbies and future. The Young Epilepsy website provides lots of information and advice specific to epilepsy in childhood and teenage years.
Eating a balanced diet when you have any healthcare condition is beneficial to help improve your overall health. Our diet can affect our sleep and activity levels, so it is possible that eating healthily may reduce the risk of seizures for some people.
Your healthcare professionals may recommend a special epilepsy diet to help control seizures by adapting how the brain works due to the levels of fat, carbohydrate and protein that are consumed. The ketogenic diet is sometimes recommended and carried out under the supervision of a dietitian and an epilepsy specialist.
There is currently no evidence to suggest that certain types of food trigger seizures in people with epilepsy but some people feel that certain colourings, preservatives, artificial sweeteners and monosodium glutamate (MSG) can be epilepsy triggers for them.
For more information on eating for epilepsy visit the Epilepsy Society website
Exercises for epilepsy
Some people with epilepsy may worry about doing exercise in case they hurt themselves during a seizure. They may not feel they have enough energy to do exercise due to tiredness or medication side effects. However, even gentle exercise can improve your fitness, energy and mood and help to relieve stress. Research shows that exercise can help reduce seizures for some people.