If the underlying cause of seizures is known, there may be ways to treat it directly -- with surgery or medication.

However, if direct treatment isn't possible, then the doctor will usually prescribe one or more medications to control the seizures.

Antiepileptic drugs (also called anticonvulsants) will usually prevent seizures or reduce their frequency once a certain level has built up in the blood.

To keep the level steady and the seizures under control, the medicine has to be taken every day, on time. Missing doses will lower the blood level and make it more likely that seizures will occur.

Taking an extra pill if an older person feels a seizure coming on is not going to help either, because the medicine can't be absorbed fast enough to make a difference.

It's only a steady, day by day use of the medication that keeps the blood level where it's supposed to be.

People should be especially careful not to stop the medicine suddenly. Doing so may cause serious rebound seizures that could even be life threatening.

A number of drugs are used to treat epilepsy. However, people do not all respond the same way. Some are more sensitive to side effects than others. And sometimes seizures continue even though the medication is being taken regularly.

Remembering the Medication

As already noted, epilepsy medicine works best when the blood level remains steady. To achieve this, some of the drugs have to be taken twice a day, some once a day, and some as many as four times a day.

It can be hard to keep track, especially when someone's trying to remember to take several other medicines as well. If you are an older person and you're taking several medications, it's a good idea to ask your pharmacist about ways to help you remember to take each drug correctly.

One of the things he or she may suggest is using a daily chart showing which medicines have to be taken, and when.

Making a daily routine of counting out medicines into a pill box divided by segments according to time of day is also a useful memory aid.

People who live alone may want to try wearing a wristwatch with an alarm that sounds when medicine has to be taken, or posting reminder notes in places where they're sure to be seen during the day.

Marking dates on calendars to re-order medication, and doing so before the prescription runs out, is important because of the risk of rebound seizures if the medicine is suddenly unavailable.

Factors Affecting Treatment

  • Memory loss
  • Vulnerability to falls
  • Slower metabolism
  • Status epilepticus
  • Drug interactions

 

Reviewed by: Joseph I. Sirven, MD | Patricia O. Shafer, RN, MN on 3/2014
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