Childhood epilepsy is usually treated with seizure-preventing medicines called antiepileptic or anticonvulsant drugs.
If the drugs don't work, or the child has a lot of side effects, surgery or the ketogenic diet may be tried.
If surgery is not an option, or the diet does not work, a new form of therapy called vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) may be tried.
Children take the same antiepilepsy meds as adults do. Medication may be prescribed as tablets, sprinkles, capsules or in syrup.
These drugs are designed to prevent seizures. Some are successful with a limited number of seizure types; others have a broader range of action. Wherever possible, doctors try to control seizures with one drug. Some children, however, may have to take more than one.
A child may respond so well to medication that no further seizures occur so long as the medication is taken regularly and an effective level is maintained in the child's blood.
A Continuing Need
Not having seizures does not mean that the medication is no longer needed. Most patients require a minimum of several years of therapy. Always ask your doctor before stopping antiepileptic medication.
Taking only part of your medication or stopping medication abruptly can cause a serious increase in seizure activity.
Finding the Right Drug
The search for the best medication for any individual child may take a long time. Children, like adults, respond to medications in different ways. Several drugs and different combinations of drugs may have to be tried in an effort to get the seizures under control.
The goal of treatment is to achieve the greatest level of control, the lowest level of side effects, at the lowest possible dose.
Common side effects from antiepileptic drugs include fatigue, nausea, changes in vision, and weight gain.
Some side effects are linked to high dosages. Others are due individual sensitivity or allergic reaction. Some tend to happen when a new medication is started, but go away (or become less of a problem) as the child becomes accustomed to it.