How are focal onset seizures treated?

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Focal seizures can persist for minutes, hours, or in rare cases, days. The longer they last, the more difficult they are to stop. In such cases, urgent medical care is often needed and IV medications are used to stop the seizure. Doctors will then focus on preventing the seizures from happening again.

Examples of the treatments for seizures include:

Medications

Antiseizure medications may be taken alone or in combination to reduce the likelihood that a seizure will occur. Examples of these medications include lamotrigine (Lamictal) and carbamazepine (Tegretol).

Surgery

Because focal onset seizures occur in one area of the brain, a doctor may recommend surgery to remove that specific area to reduce the incidence of seizures. This is usually done if patients require multiple medications to control their seizures or if the medications have limited efficacy or intolerable side effects. Although brain surgery always poses risks, your doctors may be able to cure you of your seizures if they can clearly identify a single source of the seizures. However, some parts of the brain can’t be removed.

Devices

A device called a vagus nerve stimulator can be implanted to send bursts of electrical energy to the brain. This can help reduce the incidence of seizures. However, some people will still need to take their antiseizure medications even with the device.

Dietary therapy

Some people with partial seizures have found success in a special diet known as a ketogenic diet. This diet involves eating few carbohydrates and higher amounts of fat. However, the diet’s restrictive nature can make it difficult to follow, especially for younger children.

A doctor may recommend using all of these therapies or a combination of them as a means to treat focal onset seizures.

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When to call your doctor

It may be difficult for a person to recognize when they’re having a focal seizure, depending on their symptoms. If a person has lost awareness, or if friends and family tell them they are often staring blankly or appear as if they’re not listening, these can be signs that a person should seek medical attention. Also, if a seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, it’s time to call the doctor or go to the emergency room.

Until a person sees their doctor, they should keep a journal of their symptoms and how long they last to help the doctor track the patterns of possible seizures.

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