Nerve cells in the brain can send abnormal electrical signals, resulting in a seizure. Epilepsy is the diagnosis for a person who has two or more seizures in a lifetime. According to WebMD, medications to treat seizures are effective in about 70 percent of epileptic patients. Epilepsy.com lists over 40 medications to treat seizures, though some are prescribed more frequently than others and many patients use more than one medication. The Mayo Clinic states that more than half of epileptic children can eventually stop taking medications, and adults can often discontinue medications after 2 seizure-free years.
Carbamazepine (Tegretol or Carbatrol) medications are one of the most commonly prescribed seizure drugs. Carbamazepine is effective in treating partial (affecting only one part of the brain), generalized (affecting the entire brain) and mixed seizures. Carbamazepine comes in regular tablets, chewable tablets and liquid form and should be taken with food to avoid stomach upset. Common side effects include nausea, dizziness, fatigue and rash.
Lamictal comes in regular and chewable tablets and helps control partial and some generalized seizures in epileptic patients. Lamictal has very few side effects, making it a popular choice for patients who have had negative reactions to other seizure medications. Some patients have reported difficulty sleeping, dizziness and rash while taking Lamictal, but these side effects are generally mild and often resolve on their own.
Phenytoin (Dilantin or Phenytek) is effective in controlling partial and certain generalized seizures. Phenytoin comes in a variety of forms including capsule, liquid and intravenous (IV) solution for hospital use to control active seizures. Side effects of phenytoin are similar to other seizure medications and include dizziness, weight loss, vision problems and nervousness.
Felbatol is a strong anti-seizure medication used to treat partial and some generalized seizures. It is available in pill and liquid form but has potentially serious side effects including bone marrow or liver failure. Weight loss, headache and depression are other common side effects. Felbatol is usually only prescribed to patients who have not responded to other medications.
Tranquilizers, such as Valium, Klonopin and Tranxene, are effective medications for short-term use to control seizures. Emergency rooms often use tranquilizers to stop active seizures, though most patients quickly develop a tolerance, making them impractical for long-term use. Most tranquilizers come in tablet form, but Klonopin is also available as a dissolving wafer for children and patients who have difficulty swallowing pills. Side effects include nausea, depression, drowsiness, depression and loss of appetite.