What Is Epilepsy and What Are Its Treatment Options?

Epilepsy affects people of all ages. In the U.S., 3.4 million people are living with epilepsy. Here to tell us more is Chad Carlson, MD, epilepsy neurologist with the Froedtert & MCW Comprehensive Epilepsy Center.

What is epilepsy?

Before we talk about epilepsy, we really need to first talk about what a seizure is. A seizure is like a short circuit or an overactive area in the brain. If someone has two or more seizures, that's what we call epilepsy. So thinking more broadly, epilepsy is a condition or a group of conditions that predispose or make patients more likely to have seizures.

What are the treatment options for epilepsy?

When people think about treating seizures, the first thing that typically comes to mind are anti-seizure medications. Formerly, we called these anti-epileptic drugs. There are over 20 different anti-seizure medications that we can use to treat epilepsy, but for some patients that doesn't result in them becoming seizure free. In that case, we look at other treatment options, including dietary options and surgical options.

Is there a difference in where a person receives epilepsy care?

Absolutely. It's important for patients with epilepsy to seek care at a Comprehensive Epilepsy Center like the center at Froedtert Hospital. At these centers, you are working with a multidisciplinary team that has access to all of the state-of-the-art imaging and electroencephalogram (EEG) resources, including magnetic encephalogram (MEG) and functional MRI, that can help to understand their epilepsy and ultimately guide future treatment options.

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