Epileptic seizures require medication for their control. Anticonvulsants are the drugs that facilitate this kind of symptom relief. Epilepsy treatment depends on a number of variables which is addressed individually per patient.
The factors to consider are:
- frequency of seizure activity
- severity of seizures
- patient age
- the overall health of the patient
- previous medical history
There must be an accurate diagnosis of the type of epilepsy in finding the best suited treatment.
Medication in the treatment of Epilepsy
There are a number of newer medications used to treat epilepsy alongside a number of older more traditional medications.
Of the Older Epilepsy Medications prescribed:
- Dilantin or Phenytek
- Tegretol or Carbatrol
- Depakote, Depakote ER
Newer medications to treat epilepsy include:
The choice for a patient is almost always based on factors specific to each patient. This is typically whether certain side effects will be tolerated, other medications they may be taking and the method of administration.
There are 3 types of side effects that are typical for epilepsy medication:
Common side effects.
Those that fall within this category are generic side effects.
i.e.) blurry or double vision, extreme fatigue or sleepiness, nausea, balance and coordination may be unsteady.
Idiosyncratic side effects.
Those that are considered idiosyncratic are unpredictable side effects which are not related to the dose and are typically rare.
i.e.) skin rashes, liver problems or low blood cell count
Unique side effects.
These types of side effects are unique in that they will not be a shared side effect by other drugs of the same class.
i.e.) Dilantin may cause the gums to swell.
Medical Cannabis Treatment for Epilepsy
- Cannabidiol Displays Antipileptiform and Antiseizure Properties In Vitro and In Vivi (2010)
Research aimed to explore the further implications of CBD for its anticonvulsant properties using both animals and isolated tissue experimentation. It was found that CBD and its effects with CB1 receptors showed the potential to inhibit epileptiform activity within isolated tissue samples, and reduce seizure severity in living animals. Published in the US National Library of Medicine.
- Cannabidivarin is anticonvulsant in mouse and rats (2012)
Research set out to test the effect of the cannabinoid CBDV on convulsions, such as those caused by epilepsy. It was found that the application of such a cannabinoid was effective at preventing convulsions and appeared to have not side effects on normal functioning. Published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.
- Marijuana, endocannabinoids, and epilepsy: potential and challenges for improved therapeutic intervention (2013)
This research is a meta-study that outlines how the outcomes of many other studies appear to indicate that cannabinoids, and marijuana, are potentially beneficial to those suffering from neurological disorders, such as epilepsy. Published in the US National Library of Medicine.
Statistics: Population diagnosed with Epilepsy in Australia
- An estimated 2.4 million new cases occur each year globally1
- It is estimated that over 250,000 Australians are living with epilepsy2. Approx 3% to 3.5% of Australians will experience epilepsy at some point in their lives.
- It is estimated that nearly 800,000 people in Australia will be diagnosed with epilepsy at some stage in life2
- Up to 15% of people referred to an epilepsy specialist centre do not actually have epilepsy and have been previously misdiagnosed
- A small percentage of people may be eligible for surgery. Approximately 70% of people who have epilepsy surgery become seizure free
- Around the world an estimated 50 million people have epilpesy at any given time1
1 World Health Organisation, http://www.who.int/mental_health/neurology/epilepsy/en/
2 Australian Bureau of Statistics
3 WHO, ILE, ILEA Global Campaign against Epilepsy, 2003; WHO Fact Sheet No. 165, 2001
This image is a simplification for website aesthetics only. For more information please refer to the clinical studies referenced below.
What is Epilepsy?
A neurological disorder that is marked by sudden episodes of recurrent sensory disturbances.
Causes of Epilepsy
There are many causes of epilepsy. They tend to vary based on the nature of the seizures as well as the age of onset. In 50% of cases, the cause is not known.
Presently we know that structural abnormalities in the developing brain, infections like meningitis or encephalitis, or minimal to no oxygen to the brain during birth or after a stroke, can cause epilepsy. Brain injuries, particularly those that result in scar tissue, is also known to make one more susceptible to developing epilepsy. Oftentimes there is a considerable lapse in time between the brain injury and the onset of seizures. Epilepsy can also occur as a result from a tumour, though this is not a common cause in children. In the aged population, over 65s may develop epilepsy from degenerative conditions like that of Alzheimer’s disease.
In a great number of cases involving very young children, genetics has been indicated to play an important role. Genetics however can be a factor in developing epilepsy at any age. Some people are simply more prone to developing seizures than others. When there is a history of seizures in the family, there is a greater risk for an individual to develop epilepsy.
Symptoms of Epilepsy
- Loss of consciousness
- Sensory disturbance
- Convulsions, associated with abnormal electrical activity in the brain