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What are anti-epilepsy medications?

Epilepsy is a disorder that affects the nervous system. The primary symptom of epilepsy is seizures, a sudden surge of disruptive electrical activity in the brain that affects how a person feels or acts for a brief amount of time. Most of the time, epilepsy can be treated with anti-seizure medications. (In general, medications are able to control seizures in about 70 percent of people.)

Our approach

At Cohen Children’s, we implement individualized anti-epilepsy medication plans with the goal of eliminating or drastically reducing seizures caused by epilepsy in childhood. There are many factors that affect a child’s reaction to anti-epilepsy medications. Our physicians will work with you and your child to find the proper medication and dose to improve your child’s quality of life and overall function. We will most likely have your child begin at a lower dose than what they may actually need to get rid of their seizures. This method may postpone the desired outcome, but it will also decrease the severity of side effects from the medication, making it more likely that your child's long-term treatment plan is a success. Over time, your physician will increase the dose until your child has reached the optimal requirement.  Our pediatric epileptologists combine the art and science of medicine when it comes to choosing the correct type of medicine and  combination of medications if necessary. We monitor for adverse reactions and use careful TDM (therapeutic drug monitoring) to check levels of the anti-seizure drug in the blood.

Types of anti-epilepsy medications

There are now several anti-seizure medications available to choose from. The type of treatment your doctor prescribes will depend on several factors, including the frequency and severity of the seizures, your child's age, overall health and medical history. An accurate diagnosis of the type of epilepsy is also critical to choosing the best treatment. The choice of drugs used to treat epilepsy is most often based on factors like tolerance of the side effects, other illnesses, and the medication's delivery method. Our doctors may choose a medication from one of these major groups:

  • First generation anti-seizure drugs: carbamazepine, phenytoin, phenobarbital, ethosuximide
  • Second generation anti-seizure drugs: levetiracetam, oxcarbazepine, felbamate, lamotrigine, topiramate, zonisamide, gabapentin
  • Third generation anti-seizure drugs: eslicarbazepine, perampanel, clobazam, vigabatrin, brivaracetam, pregabalin

Our epileptologists are also well-versed in using specialized anti-epileptics in certain seizure syndromes. This includes ACTH injection, oral steroids for infantile spasms and stiripentol for Dravet syndrome.

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