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Treating epilepsy

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Experiencing an epileptic seizure for the first time can leave someone shaken in more ways than one. Thankfully, in the past few years, information on this illness and the ways to treat it has increased significantly.

L’épilepsie et son traitement

Treating epilepsy: a bit of history

Not that long ago, people thought that a person with epilepsy was possessed by an evil spirit or that he or she was the victim of a supernatural phenomenon. For a very long time, treatment was based on a few medications with major side effects that sometimes restricted their use. But the past few decades have seen the appearance of numerous treatment options that offer patients a wider array of solutions.

The goal of treatment

Epilepsy is a chronic illness that is characterized by frequent seizures occurring suddenly. It is caused by abnormal electric activity in the brain. The goal of treatment is to reduce the frequency of seizures and gain control of the illness, with as little side effects as possible.

Treating epilepsy for a better quality of life

Generally, a doctor will decide to begin treating a patient after he or she has had two epileptic seizures. However, some individuals who are at high risk of relapsing can begin treatment right after the first seizure. Such is the case, for example, for people who have:

  • a brain tumour;
  • a history of stroke;
  • a high-risk job;
  • a more severe form of epilepsy.

Before confirming that you suffer from epilepsy, your doctor will check your family history and give you an electroencephalogram, as well as a neurological examination. It can be very upsetting for someone to be diagnosed with epilepsy; the person may believe that he or she will have to give up his or her favourite activities to avoid seizures at all costs. Fortunately, we now know that most epileptic seizures (except for a rare case named status epilepticus) do not cause damage to the brain. It is therefore possible for an epileptic person, whose illness is well controlled by treatment, to drive a car, to enjoy sports and to choose a job of his or her liking.

When you first start medication, you may experience some side effects that can, in some cases, be very disrupting. Never stop taking your medication before speaking to your pharmacist. He or she will be there to give you advice on how to reduce adverse effects or discuss treatment alternatives with your doctor, if necessary.

Choosing a treatment: to each his own

Unlike the olden days, a person with epilepsy today has the freedom to choose a treatment among many options. Between 70 and 80% of patients succeed in managing their illness in a satisfactory way with only one medication. Selecting a medication is done according to several criteria, including:

  • posology (how many times a day you must take it);
  • possible side effects;
  • warnings and precautions;
  • risk of interaction with other medication;
  • other treatment options;
  • patient’s personal preference.

Don’t forget that the pharmacist is a specialist in medication and can therefore tell you more about all of its aspects.

In order to properly control their symptoms, some people may have to combine several medications. If this is your case, don’t worry. These medications will work together to keep you healthy.

Taking medication: a step towards success

It is of utmost importance to keep taking your treatment. With time, you might possibly lower your guard and forget or stop taking your medication because you believe you are cured. Unfortunately, the recurrence of a seizure will be a harsh reminder that this is not the case. Most often, the absence of seizures is a sign that your treatment is working. However, if you are patient and your risk of relapse is low, your doctor may decide to stop treatment if you have not had a seizure in two to five years since beginning your treatment.

A few tips to help prevent seizures

Making a few lifestyle changes could reduce the occurrence of a seizure. For example:

  • lowering your alcohol intake;
  • lowering your caffeine intake;
  • reducing stress through relaxation exercises;
  • avoiding hyperventilation;
  • getting enough sleep;
  • eating healthy and regularly;
  • preventing head trauma by wearing a helmet for sports;
  • avoiding places with flashing lights and loud music.

To help make epileptic seizures a thing of the past, it is essential to take medication on a regular basis. Otherwise, you may have to live with the constant fear of losing control during a seizure that could occur in the most unexpected or unfortunate situation. Thanks to certain measures, epilepsy is an illness that can be managed; take over and you could win this battle!

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