By Dr. Neeta Naik, Pediatric Neurology
The word epilepsy brings to mind visions of people frothing at the mouth and rolling on the ground. However, epilepsy affects each patient in a different way. This can make it hard to recognize at times. In the more serious cases of epilepsy, an epileptic attack can make a patient injure himself or develop other life-threatening conditions. In rare cases, epilepsy can even cause death. Thus it becomes imperative to understand how to deal with epilepsy.
Treatment options for epilepsy can be categorized as medication, surgical procedures and dietary changes.
Medication - Medication for epilepsy is prescribed on the basis of the symptoms presented and the type of epilepsy the patient is suffering from. In most cases, seizures can be controlled with a single type of medication, but in others, the doctor may need to prescribe a combination of medicines to control epilepsy. These forms of medication do have side effects and hence any reactions to the medication must be immediately brought to the doctor’s notice. The dosage for epilepsy medication may need to be varied with time. An epileptic patient should never discontinue medication on their own.
Surgery - Depending on the type of seizures and the area of the brain affected, a doctor may advise surgery in cases of severe epilepsy. Surgery can help reduce the number of seizures experienced or completely stop them. Surgery to treat epilepsy is of many types. Some of the common procedures are:
- Surgery to remove tumor of any such conditions that may be triggering the epileptic attacks
- Surgery to remove a small section of the brain from where a seizure originates. This may also be referred to as a lobectomy.
- Multiple subpial transaction or a surgery that involves making a series of cuts in the brain to prevent the seizures from spreading to other parts of the brain.
- Surgery to sever the neural connections between the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
- Surgery to remove half the brain’s cortex or outer layer
Dietary changes - A diet rich in fats and low in carbohydrates can help reduce seizures. This is known as a ketogenic diet and aims at making the body break down fats instead of carbohydrates. It can cause a buildup of uric acid in the body and thus should be practiced only under the guidance of a dietician. In cases where epileptic attacks are triggered by malnutrition and birth defects, taking vitamin supplements can help lower the frequency of seizures.