Preventing and Managing Epilepsy
How can I prevent epilepsy?
Sometimes we can prevent epilepsy. These are some of the most common ways to reduce your risk of developing epilepsy:
- Have a healthy pregnancy. Some problems during pregnancy and childbirth may lead to epilepsy. Follow a prenatal care plan with your health care provider to keep you and your baby healthy.
- Prevent brain injuries.
- Lower the chances of stroke and heart disease.
- Be up-to-date on your vaccinations.
- Wash your hands and prepare food safely to prevent infections such as cysticercosis.
How is epilepsy diagnosed?
A person who has a seizure for the first time should talk to a health care provider, such as a doctor or nurse practitioner. The provider will talk to the person about what happened, and look for the cause of the seizure. Many people who have seizures take tests such as brain scans for a closer look at what is going on. These tests do not hurt.
How is epilepsy treated?
There are many things a provider and person with epilepsy can do to stop or lessen seizures.
The most common treatments for epilepsy are:
- Medicine. Anti-seizure drugs are medicines that limit the spread of seizures in the brain. A health care provider will change the amount of the medicine or prescribe a new drug if needed to find the best treatment plan. Medicines work for about 2 in 3 people with epilepsy.
- Surgery. When seizures come from a single area of the brain (focal seizures), surgery to remove that area may stop future seizures or make them easier to control with medicine. Epilepsy surgery is mostly used when the seizure focus is located in the temporal lobe of the brain.
- Other treatments. When medicines do not work and surgery is not possible, other treatments can help. These include vagus nerve stimulation, where an electrical device is placed, or implanted, under the skin on the upper chest to send signals to a large nerve in the neck. Another option is the ketogenic diet, a high fat, low carbohydrate diet with limited calories.
Who treats epilepsy?
Many kinds of health providers treat people with epilepsy. Primary care providers such as family physicians, pediatricians, and nurse practitioners are often the first people to see a person with epilepsy who has new seizures. These providers may make the diagnosis of epilepsy or they may talk with a neurologist or epileptologist.
A neurologist is a doctor who specializes in the brain and nervous system. An epileptologist is a neurologist who specializes in epilepsy. When problems occur such as seizures or side effects of medicine, the primary health provider may send the patient to a neurologist or epileptologists for specialized care.
People who have seizures that are difficult to control or who need advanced care for epilepsy may be referred to an epilepsy centers. Epilepsy centers are staffed by providers who specialize in epilepsy care, such as
- Epileptologists and neurologists.
Many epilepsy centers work with university hospitals and researchers.
How do I find an epilepsy specialist?
There are several ways you can find a neurologist or an epileptologist near you. Your primary care or family provider can tell you about types of specialists. The American Epilepsy Society provides a list of its member neurologists and epilepsy specialists, including epileptologists. The National Association of Epilepsy Centers also provides a list of its member centers, organized by state.
What can I do to manage my epilepsy?
Self-management is what you do to take care of yourself. You can learn how to manage seizures and keep an active and full life. Begin with these tips:
- Take your medicine.
- Talk with your doctor or nurse when you have questions.
- Recognize seizure triggers (such as flashing or bright lights).
- Keep a record of your seizures.
- Get enough sleep.
- Lower stress.