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Epilepsy Treatment: Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

Last Updated: Jul 05, 2024

What is the treatment?

Epilepsy is a disease that is related to the central nervous system. During an epilepsy attack, abnormal brain activity leads to various symptoms such as seizures, loss of awareness, unusual behaviour or unusual symptoms. There are no specific causes for developing epilepsy. Sometimes, the condition can follow a head trauma, brain condition, a prenatal injury, infectious disease, or even some developmental disorders such as autism. Fortunately, there are effective treatments for epilepsy, though for some this may be a lifelong ailment.

The first line of treatment for epilepsy includes medication. There are anti-seizure or anti-epilepsy medications available at drug stores. Yours will depend on a variety of factors such as how frequently you get seizures, how old you are, and other factors that are equally important.

if medications do not work, then you can always opt for surgeries. The surgical procedures for epilepsy aim to address the problem in the nerves to reduce the frequency of the seizures or eliminate epilepsy altogether. Another line of treatment that can be considered is therapy. This aims to soothe your nerves to prevent seizures from occurring.

How is the treatment done?

Once the epilepsy is confirmed through scans of your brain, the treatment plan can be charted out. As stated earlier, your doctor will consider your age, the number of seizures you get and how often you get them, and your medical history in order to determine the correct medications for you. More often than not, medications are highly effective in stopping seizures. If children who have been suffering from epilepsy stop having seizures for a set period of time (which is determined by the doctor), they can actually live a seizure free life and can stop taking the medication altogether.

Sometimes, your seizures may be occurring in a very specific part of your brain. If this area of the brain does not have anything to do with any vital functions such as cognitive thought, speech, muscle function, vision, and hearing, then the doctor will remove this part of the brain. However, many people still require medications or therapy after this procedure. It does lessen the amount of medication you need at the end of the day.

There are various forms of therapy that can also help with epilepsy. With the help of a device inserted within your chest, you can get your vagus nerve stimulated. This can help reduce the total seizures anywhere from 20-40%. A change in the diet to the ketogenic diet wherein the body burns fat instead of carbs can also help control your seizures. This is effective in both, children and adults.

Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)

If you suffer from frequent seizures, you should consult with a doctor to find out whether or not you have epilepsy. If you do, you are eligible to seek any of the treatment options that are mentioned above.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

Sometimes, high fever can cause seizures, especially in children. This, however, does not mean that the child has epilepsy. It is simply the body reacting to the fever. If this is the case, you do not need to seek treatment for epilepsy.

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Are there any side effects?

The treatments for epilepsy come with a few side effects. Anti-seizure medicines can cause dizziness, fatigue, loss of bone density, weight gain, loss of coordination, rashes on the skin, memory and thinking problems, and even speech problems. These, however, are the milder side effects. There are a few major side effects as well such as depression, suicidal thoughts and actions, inflammation in certain organs, like the liver, and severe rashes. Though these side effects are more dangerous, they are also quite rare.

Since the surgery for epilepsy involves removing a part of the brain, one of the major side effects is that you can lose your ability to think rationally. Swelling, pain, and bruising are other side effects of the surgery.

If you opt for the ketogenic diet, then the side effects include dehydration, kidney stones, constipation, and the slowing down of growth because of the changes in the nutrients being absorbed by the body. One has to be vary of signs of malnutrition in children. Similarly, vagus nerve stimulation can cause soreness and pain in the throat, shortness of breath, hoarseness in the voice, and coughs.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

It is very important to take your anti-seizure medications exactly as and when the doctor prescribes them. Following the instructions given to you will prevent any side effects from occurring and will allow the medication to be as effective as possible.

How long does it take to recover?

The recovery period depends on patient to patient. Some patients may recover from epilepsy within a matter of years while for others, this may be a lifelong ailment.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

The cost of the medicines ranges anywhere between Rs. 150 – Rs. 300, depending on the medication that you are taking.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

If the condition is cured in children and the patient remains seizure free for a stipulated time period, then the results of the treatment can be permanent.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

Alternate treatments for epilepsy are being explored. One of these treatments is deep brain stimulus wherein electrodes are inserted in the thalamus. These electrodes send electrical impulses that may reduce the seizures. Another treatment that is being explored is responsive neurostimulation during which a pacemaker like device can be used to stimulate the nerves and brain and prevent seizures from occurring. An external device to stimulate nerves, radiotherapy, as well as minimally invasive surgeries are also being explored as alternate options available in the future in order to treat epilepsy.

References

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Written ByDr. Arun Sharma MBBS,MS - General Surgery,MCh - Neuro SurgeryNeurosurgery
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Reviewed ByDr. Bhupindera Jaswant SinghMD - Consultant PhysicianGeneral Physician
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