Treatment Options

Drug Therapy

The most common treatments for epilepsy are known as anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). Some of the side-effects of these medications are related to the drug’s action on brain cells and can interfere with normal brain functions. Side-effects may be more pronounced when a medication is first introduced and may subside as the person’s brain adjusts to the drug.  A person who is taking more than one AED has a higher likelihood of experiencing side-effects than someone taking a single medication.  Although 70% of people with epilepsy will obtain excellent seizure control with medication(s), the other 30% will not. 

Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) involves periodic mild electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve in the neck by a surgically implanted device similar to a heart pacemaker. VNS has been found effective in controlling some forms of epilepsy when anti-epileptic drugs have been inadequate or their side effects intolerable, and neurosurgery has not been an option. Common side effects, which occur only during stimulation, may include a tingling sensation in the neck and/or mild hoarseness of the voice. Unlike many medications, there seems to be no significant intellectual, cognitive, behavioral or emotional side effects to VNS therapy. VNS is approved in more than 20 countries and is now the second most common treatment for epilepsy in the United States.

Ketogenic Diet

This strictly supervised diet is prescribed for children. The diet is high in fat and low in carbohydrates. It is prescribed when seizures are not controlled by medication and surgery is not an option. Seizures are brought under control in many of the children who try the diet and are eliminated – sometimes permanently – in some of the children who rigidly stick to the diet. This diet is only used under a doctor’s supervision.


Surgery is used when drugs have failed and when the injured brain tissue causing the seizures can be identified and safely removed without damaging psychological or major body functions. This applies only to a small percentage of persons living with epilepsy. Different types of operations may be performed. In general, they fall into two main groups:

  • Removal of the area of the brain that is producing the seizures; and
  • Interruption of the nerve pathways along which seizure impulses spread.
Complementary Therapies

Some people with epilepsy find it helpful to incorporate complementary therapies in conjunction with their traditional therapies. Complementary therapies include acupuncture, biofeedback, herbal treatments, aromatherapy and stress reduction techniques. There is no evidence to suggest that complementary therapies are successful in controlling epilepsy on their own. Always consult with your physician before trying a complementary therapy.

Information provided is not intended to replace any medical advice provided by your physician or neurologist. It is intended to supply general information on epilepsy and seizures. For further medical information or specific diagnostic questions, please refer your concerns to your physician or neurologist.