Treating epilepsy across its different stages

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Epilepsy is a chronic condition requiring long-term treatment with drugs that have intrinsic limitations. Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) are effective in suppressing seizures but do not alter the disease process. They have a suboptimal tolerability profile and can be teratogenic. Second-generation compounds may be better tolerated but no more effective than traditional AEDs. In this light, as drug therapy is purely symptomatic, acute symptomatic seizures (i.e. seizures occurring in close temporal relationship with acute CNS insults) may require treatment only until recovery or stabilization of the injury. Treatment of the first unprovoked seizure may be considered in patients with abnormal EEG and imaging findings and in those in whom the relapse has severe social, emotional and personal implications. In these cases and in patients with epilepsy (i.e. repeated unprovoked seizures), drugs for partial seizures supported by class I regulatory trials or pragmatic trials are oxcarbazepine in children, carbamazepine or lamotrigine in adults, and lamotrigine or gabapentin in the elderly. Pragmatic trials support use of valproate for generalized seizures, except for women of childbearing age for whom the drug should be tailored to the individual patient. The lowest maintenance dose should be chosen, based on the efficacy and tolerability of the assigned drug. If the first monotherapy fails, the safety profile of a drug is important when opting for another monotherapy or for an add-on therapy. The epilepsy syndrome and the social, psychological and emotional profile of the patient all contribute to the individualization of treatment discontinuation after long-term seizure remission.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-92
Number of pages8
JournalTherapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010


  • Acute symptomatic seizures
  • Antiepileptic drugs
  • Epilepsy
  • Treatment discontinuation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Pharmacology


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