Health advice

Ways to treat epilepsy

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Epilepsy is a condition that can make people have seizures. Read more about how to treat epilepsy, including the different types of treatments and what you need to know before taking anti-epileptic drugs.
Treatments for epilepsy can include:
  • taking anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs)
  • surgery on the part of the brain that’s causing seizures
  • vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), where a small electrical device like a pacemaker is fitted inside the chest
  • a ketogenic diet, which is high in fat and low in carbohydrates and protein. 1
Some people will need to have lifelong treatment to help manage their epilepsy and keep seizures under control. Other people may be able to stop having treatment if their seizures disappear over time.1 Talk to your GP about your own situation and how long you're likely to need treatment.2

Anti-epileptic drugs are the most commonly used treatment for epilepsy. There are a range of different AEDs available, and it can take some time to find the right one for you.

Some people need more than one AED to control their epilepsy. You might also struggle with side effects. If you don’t think your medicine is right for you, talk to your specialist or epilepsy nurse. You may be able to switch medicines, add on another or lower your dosage.

AEDs and contraception

Some types of anti-epileptic drugs can stop your contraception from working as well as it should. This may mean you’re more likely to get pregnant.3

Some contraception can also make your AEDs less effective, which can make you have seizures more often.3

If this is the case for you, there are two options. You may want to change your method of contraception. Examples of contraception that aren’t affected by the medicine you take include the intrauterine system (IUS) and intrauterine device (IUD).

Changing your epilepsy medicine may also be an option. However, you must talk to your epilepsy specialist to discuss whether using a different medicine will be beneficial. It’s important that you don’t stop taking your medication without speaking to your GP or another healthcare specialist first.

Sodium valproate is an AED used to treat epilepsy. Medicines containing sodium valproate can cause birth defects in unborn babies. Women taking sodium valproate should be aware of these risks and take appropriate measures to avoid getting pregnant while taking this medicine.

Find out more about Prevent, the valproate pregnancy prevention programme in this patient information booklet.1

For further information and frequently asked questions about sodium valproate, visit the Epilepsy Society website.

  1. Epilepsy. Published October 23, 2017. Accessed March 16, 2021.
  2. Overview | Epilepsies in children, young people and adults | Guidance | NICE. Accessed September 5, 2022.
  3. Antiseizure drugs and women: Challenges with contraception and pregnancy - PMC. Accessed March 1, 2023.

Published: October 2022

Next review: October 2025

Reviewer: Mital Thakrar, Pharmacist

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