What are the Best Treatments for Seizures?

J.L. Drede
J.L. Drede
A diagram showing the vagus nerve, which is associated with seizures.
A diagram showing the vagus nerve, which is associated with seizures.

Treatments for seizures can vary from person to person and from case to case. Most often treatment involves surgery, medication, or some combination of the two. In other instances, nerve therapy or even a change in diet might be used to help control the seizures.

Seizures are most often a sign of epilepsy, a brain disorder in which sections of the brain behave in an abnormal way. The neurons that generate electrochemical impulses in the brain become disturbed. Sometimes the disturbance can cause confusion or emotional shifts. Many times it leads to seizures that include convulsions, spasms, and a loss of consciousness.

Medication may be prescribed to prevent seizures.
Medication may be prescribed to prevent seizures.

The most common treatments for seizures involve some kind of medication. These medications do not cure the condition; they only stop the seizures from happening. If the person stops taking the medication, the seizures will return. Some side effects of seizure medications can include upset stomach, blurred vision, and fatigue, but these usually wear off after a few months.

Sometimes medication cannot sufficiently control seizures. In these cases, other treatments for seizures are usually considered. Many times surgery will become an option at this point, especially if the root cause of the seizures can be determined. While surgery does not always work to completely eliminate the seizures, many times it will reduce their frequency or severity. Other times surgery will make a person more responsive to medication. Some people who suffer from seizures have tumors or malformed blood vessels in the brain. These are the cases in which surgery can be most helpful.

One of the more unusual treatments for seizures is called the ketogenic diet. In some but not all cases, a diet that is rich in fats and low in carbohydrates can work to reduce the frequency of seizures. This treatment is mostly used with children who suffer from seizures.

The ketogenic diet does have its own set of side effects. It is not a very nutritious diet and can affect a child's growth rate. It also can lead to kidney stones. The ketogenic diet is also very hard to maintain and typically requires the assistance of a dietitian or other specialist.

Another common treatment for seizures is called vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). This is a surgical treatment where a small battery is implanted under the skin. Small leads are implanted from the battery to the base of the vagus nerve, a large nerve that is located in the neck. The battery is then programed to deliver a series of electrical shocks to the nerve every few minutes. This has been known to reduce or stop seizures for some people.

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    • A diagram showing the vagus nerve, which is associated with seizures.
      A diagram showing the vagus nerve, which is associated with seizures.
    • Medication may be prescribed to prevent seizures.
      Medication may be prescribed to prevent seizures.