For people with epilepsy, seizure control is very important. Being able to manage seizures helps people enjoy a better quality of life. At the same time, the side effects of anti-seizure medication can also affect daily life. It’s important to find a balance between the two.
There are not specific medications for most types of seizures and epilepsy. The majority of approved medications are used for all types of seizures. There is a broad range of types of epilepsy, and medication treatments are tailored to meet individual needs. Some of the main concerns doctors consider when deciding which medication to use are:
- What is the most effective drug for this person’s type of seizure or epilepsy?
- Are there other medical issues that the drug can treat at the same time?
- Will the side effects be harmful?
- Are there special considerations, such as pregnancy?
- How will this medication interact with other medications?
Epilepsy medication can reduce or prevent seizures for many people. For this reason, medication is often the first step taken in treating epilepsy. Anti-seizure medications can greatly help to improve a person’s overall quality of life.
A doctor will talk about possible side effects and risks of your medication as well as the benefits. Common side effects include feeling tired and having an upset stomach. You may also feel dizzy or have blurred vision. These may vary depending on dosage, type of medication and length of treatment.
Side effects are seen more with higher doses but can ease up over time as the body gets used to treatment. Starting out at a lower dose and slowly increasing it can help reduce side effects. Although less common, it’s possible to have an allergic reaction to your medication. The most common allergic reaction is a rash. If this occurs, seek prompt medical attention.
Different medications have different side effects. Not everyone will experience side effects exactly the same way. Depending upon the medication, some people may need routine blood tests done to monitor for changes. Taking more than one medication can impact thinking, concentration or memory. People experiencing these problems should check with their doctor.
Approved Epilepsy Medication Treatments
There are currently 22 approved epilepsy medication treatments in the United States. The seizure prevention medications are listed below by approval date of when the drug became available for use. The generic name is listed first, and the brand name is in parentheses.
- Phenobarbital: Approved in 1912.
- Phenytoin (Dilantin): Approved in 1938.
- Primidone (Mysoline): Approved in 1954.
- Ethosuximide (Zarontin): Approved in 1960.
- Clorazepate (Tranxene): Approved in 1972.
- Carbamazepine (Tegretol): Approved in 1974.
- Clonazepam (Klonopin): Approved in 1975.
- Felbamate (Felbatol): Approved in 1993.
- Gabapentin (Neurontin): Approved in 1993.
- Lamotrigine (Lamictal): Approved in 1993.
- Topiramate (Topamax): Approved in 1997.
- Tiagabine (Gabitril): Approved in 1997.
- Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal): Approved in 2000.
- Levetiracetam (Keppra): Approved in 2000.
- Zonisamide (Zonegran): Approved in 2000.
- Pregabalin (Lyrica): Approved in 2005.
- Rufinamide (Banzel): Approved in 2008.
- Lacosamide (Vimpat): Approved in 2008.
- Vigabatrin (Sabril): Approved in 2009.
- Clobazam (Onfi): Approved in 2012.
- Ezogabine (Potiga): Approved in 2012.
- Perampanel (Fycompa): Approved in 2012.
- Eslicarbazepine acetate (Aptiom): Approved in 2013.
Managing Refractory Epilepsy
Some seizures can be hard to manage even with medication. People with refractory (uncontrollable) seizures may need to take more than one type. A combination of drugs can much improve an epileptic person’s quality of life. With help from Ascension Seton’s epilepsy management program in Austin, you can find a balance between controlling seizures and reducing the side effects of medication.