Continuing from my last blog concerning all the wonderful options that are available for those with epilepsy, I shall now go into greater depth.
It was only when I moved to Seattle, attended the support group and got involved with the Epilepsy Foundation that I discovered all the various possibilities. It showed me how out of the loop I was with the research and the developments taking place. On a personal level, I believe it was an indication of a lack of acceptance on my part of my condition which led me to be disinterested and subsequently ignorant of what was taking place in the medical field. However, after a swift catch up, I’m in the know and back on track!
So where to start? Well, medication is always the first port of call and if that isn’t successful then other options are considered as stated below.
The most important deciding factor here is whether the seizures fall into the generalized or partial category. If they are generalized the entire brain is affected whereas partial is restricted to one area. When it comes to surgery suitable candidates are those who have partial epilepsy. This is because they remove the brain tissue from the affected area having confirmed there will be no damage to other parts of the brain which influence major body functions. The other surgical procedure is to interrupt nerve pathways where the seizure impulses travel.
Suitability for surgery is a rigorous process, the pros and cons are weighed in respect of post-surgery with the speculation of improvement as well as benefits and risks. For some, this procedure is successful in eliminating all seizures but for others this doesn’t always guarantee a seizure free existence. It may minimize their regularity offering a better quality of life or for others there may be no change.
Vegas Nerve Stimulator
This option is used for those with partial seizures. It is a device implanted in the upper chest issuing electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve allowing impulses to extend to the brain in a variety of areas. In addition, there is a magnet provided which is used in one of two ways which activates or prevents the electrical impulse.
Slowly gliding the magnet over the VNS will switch it on sending an impulse to the vagus nerve. The other technique is to hold the magnet over the VNS which turns it off and prevents an impulse from being sent.
Many people have auras prior to a seizure which allows them to swipe the magnet over the VNS to prevent the seizure from occurring; however, it can also be used during a seizure. The technique being relatively new is known to reduce seizures but rarely offers complete control.
Medication I covered in my previous post but an additional piece of information is that surgery becomes an option if three or more medications have been tried and have failed to provide seizure control.
This is a method that I have tried and tested. Predominantly used for children, it has also been proven to assist some adults as well.
It involves a high fat low carbohydrate diet, similar to the Atkins diet. It is based on starving the brain minimizing carbohydrates within the body and increasing the fat levels. The brain burns fat rather than carbohydrate which increases the number of ketones in the body. This puts the brain into a state of ketosis which has been found to possess anti-epileptic effects.
This requires a great deal of dedication and I will be the first to say it is tricky! It requires a great deal of commitment from the whole family both as a support as well as maintaining responsiblity of preparing meals.
This diet is started in hospital under the watchful eye of a doctor; however, in my case I was directed by my herbalist. Unfortunately for me it was unsuccessful in respect of my absence seizures though for some it is effective.
Lifestyle Changes & Complimentary Therapies
Doctors promote that certain lifestyle changes can decrease seizure activity. It’s adapting ways of living in order to reduce the activities that create seizure triggers. In my experience and I speak for many when I say this, stress plays an enormous part in their frequency. Factors such as diet, stress minimization, an appropriate amount of sleep, emotional states and reducing alcohol all have a positive impact and with additional activities such as yoga, meditation, maintaining fitness and even making sure you get fresh air all can make a difference.
The journey of finding wellness with this condition or any other condition is all about research and experimentation. Epilepsy isn’t generic therefore the condition affects everyone differently so what works for you may not work for someone else and vice versa. This makes the situation a voyage of exploration!