Our first post gave information on the definition of epilepsy and “What To Do If Someone Has a Seizure,” so next you may be wondering can it be prevented? At present, the only way of preventing epilepsy is by reducing risks from things that damage the brain. Research may one day provide ways to identify people at risk of seizures and to prevent epilepsy before it begins.
Since the cause of epilepsy is still unknown, it can’t be fully prevented, but the seizures associated with epilepsy can be, and here are a few of those methods used by parents and individuals with epilepsy for seizure prevention:
1. Seizure Medications: Children and/or individuals with epilepsy can gain control of their seizures with regular use of seizure-preventing medicines. These medicines have to be taken from one to four times a day– depending on what is prescribed in their treatment regimen by the neurologist/epileptologist. Successful treatment depends on keeping a steady level of medication in the blood at all times, so it is important that doses not be missed or given late. One thing to keep in mind is that medications work differently for each individual and/or child. What works for some may not for others, and there is no quick fix when it comes to epilepsy.
2. Ketogenic Diet: The ketogenic diet is one of the oldest treatments for epilepsy. It is intended to maintain the starvation or fasting metabolism over a long period of time. When the body is in a fasting state, it creates ketones, a by-product of fat-burning metabolism. It has long been recognized that seizures often lessen or disappear during periods of fasting in some individuals with epilepsy.
The diet is very high in fat and low in carbohydrates. When fat is the primary source of calories, ketones are formed. The diet must be followed very strictly and requires a significant commitment to work effectively. Children on the diet often will not gain weight or grow much during the time the diet is in use. After that, however, growth is expected and should be carefully monitored.
The diet is typically started with a period of fasting lasting until the body produces a moderate to large amount of ketones. This initiation period usually takes place in the hospital, so that the individual can be monitored for potential side effects such as vomiting, low blood sugar, dehydration and seizures. Medications may also be adjusted during this period to prevent sedation (the tranquilizing effect of medications), another common side effect.
A two-month trial period is suggested for deciding whether the diet is effective. If effective, it is typically continued for two years. During this time, individuals are often able to lessen the amount of medication they take for seizures. Many children seem happier and more alert on the diet, even before medication is significantly lessened. People on a ketogenic diet should be monitored by a dietician, nurse and doctor particularly a neurologist familiar with its use. Specialized epilepsy clinics are available to monitor a person on this diet.
3. VNS Therapy (Vagus Nerve Stimulator): VNS therapy is not brain surgery. VNS therapy involves a minimally invasive procedure, which is typically performed under general anesthesia by a surgeon. The procedure takes approximately one hour, and patients usually go home the same day. Typically, two small incisions are made— one in a natural crease on the left side of the neck and one in the left chest area, below the collarbone. The generator is typically placed under the skin in the left chest area. A thin, flexible wire connects the generator to the left vagus nerve in the neck. The small scars from the two incisions typically fade over time and become minimally noticeable for many people. Another procedure is required to replace the generator once the battery is depleted. This procedure requires only one incision and usually takes less than an hour. The VNS therapy procedure is completely reversible.
For those who benefit from VNS therapy, it has been clinically proven to reduce the number and intensity of seizures and, in some cases, to completely eliminate seizures. Studies show that, unlike a medication, the effects of VNS therapy may take between a few months to one or two years to reach optimum levels. The positive effects of VNS therapy are long-lasting, typically do not decline, and may, in fact, improve over time. In addition, many patients using VNS therapy have also reported improvements in mood, increased alertness and enhanced memory. Furthermore, physicians have confirmed that some patients have been able to reduce the quantity and/or doses of medication over time. Many patients using VNS therapy no longer have to make as many visits to the hospital. VNS therapy is an added treatment to your current medications. It is not a replacement for them.
For more information please, go to the Epileps Warriors Foundation website.
About Susan Noble and the Epilepsy Warriors
As President and Founder of the Epilepsy Warriors, Susan Noble is striving to reach as many people within the local communities to help educate and bring an end to the stigma of epilepsy. It takes team work. It involves supporting each other in all efforts. It means showing the world that epilepsy is worth researching, fighting for and funding. We are all fighting for a CURE for our children and those “living with epilepsy” every day. We are a new foundation– one with a passionate vision. This vision will light our path and guide us towards our goals of “enlightening, empowering and curing.”
Susan and her family reside in Fort Myers, Florida otherwise known as her little slice of paradise.