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Major treatment options for epilepsy

Medications There are about 50 different medications used to treat epilepsy. Often, people whose seizures are not controlled by one drug will find relief from another. Still, in about one-third of patients, medications will not be effective, and all the drugs have side effects. One promising new drug, Ezogabine, attempts to control seizures by working in a different way than previous drugs: operating on the potassium “gates” that control brain cell excitation.

Diet Some epilepsy patients are able to control their seizures by eating a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. This can be very effective, but is difficult to follow, and the long-term effects on overall health are unclear.

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Neurostimulation Hoping to teach the brain to tamp down seizures, several relatively new approaches deliver electrical pulses directly to the brain through implanted wires or magnetic stimulation.

Surgery About 5 percent of patients with epilepsy are eligible for surgery, including patients with operable brain tumors and those whose seizure activity begins in one or two focal points that are accessible to surgeons.

SOURCE: Dr. Brien J. Smith, chairman of the board of the Epilepsy Foundation and chief of neurology for the Spectrum Health Medical Group in Grand Rapids, MI.
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