Author: Kathleen Bryant, Phoenix Pharmacy Manager
Epilepsy is a chronic neurological condition characterized by a long-term risk of recurrent seizures, which are short, sudden changes in normal brain activity. They usually affect how a person appears or acts, and can cause a person to shake, fall and/or lose awareness of one’s surroundings. They can last from a few seconds to several minutes, depending on the type of seizure.
Epilepsy can be caused by a variety of conditions that affect a person’s brain, including stroke, head injury, infection, a brain tumor, or some other underlying genetic influence. For 2 in 3 patients, the cause is unknown. This type of epilepsy is called idiopathic or cryptogenic.
For many patients, medication can be very effective. It is the primary way in which seizures are controlled, and is almost always the first treatment. Anti-seizure drugs can limit the spread of seizures in the brain, or even eliminate them all together. They are successful in about 7 out of 10 patients.
Finding the right medication and dosage can be complicated, and doctors consider many factors, including age, physical condition, the type of seizure, and frequency of seizures before selecting which drug to prescribe. In order to help doctors narrow down the most effective treatment, patients should keep a record of seizures, including triggers, frequency, duration and symptoms.
It is always important to take medication as prescribed by your doctor, and talk to your doctor or pharmacist when you have questions or changes in how your body responds to treatment. Amber Pharmacy works with patients to answer questions, and identify and manage any side effects that may occur.
For patients who do not respond to medication, surgery may be an option. This is usually done when extensive tests show that the seizures originate in a small, well-defined area of the brain and that surgery will not affect other critical brain functions. Tests also help determine if there are problems with memory and thinking, or if a person has issues with depression or anxiety. If a patient has tried at least two anti-seizure medications without success, the patient may be considered for epilepsy surgery.
When surgery is not possible, non-drug therapies such as vagus nerve stimulation or deep brain stimulation can be beneficial. This is when an implanted device delivers electrical pulses to the brain or nerves. These pulses can release substances that change how cells act or help them return to their normal state.
Finally, research shows that a ketogenic diet, which is high in fat and low in carbs, can provide some seizure control. This specialized diet produces ketones in the body, which are formed when fat is used as the main energy source rather than carbohydrates. It is prescribed by a physician and carefully monitored by a dietician. All food intake, including calories, fluids and proteins, is carefully measured. The diet is most often used for children with epilepsy; however, adults may also use the diet.
Build a Relationship with Your Pharmacist
Medication management is crucial to any effective epilepsy treatment. Amber Pharmacy provides clinical advice and personalized service to epilepsy patients. The Neurology Center of Excellence at Amber Pharmacy helps patients manage conditions with clinical experts available 24 hours, 7 days a week.