Mayo Clinic: I was diagnosed with epilepsy three years ago at
the age of 29. Iíve been on medication since then and havenít
had another seizure. Is it true that, for some people,
epilepsy is not necessarily a lifelong condition? Is there a
way to determine if I can safely go off of the medication to
see if I need it anymore?
often can control epilepsy effectively and eliminate seizures.
In a case like yours, where youíve been seizure-free for
several years, it may be reasonable to consider discontinuing
anti-epileptic medication. However, the decision about the
duration of your therapy needs to be made by your physician
after careful consideration of how likely it is that you may
have seizures again.
is a central nervous system disorder. In a person with
epilepsy, nerve cell activity in the brain becomes disrupted,
causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations
and, sometimes, loss of consciousness. The symptoms of a
seizure can vary widely from one person to the next. For
example, some people with epilepsy stare blankly for a few
seconds during a seizure or appear confused. Others may lose
consciousness and have repetitive jerking of their arms and
percent of people in the U.S. have a single, unprovoked
seizure at some point in their lives. Having one seizure,
however, doesnít mean you have epilepsy. At least two
unprovoked seizures generally are required for an epilepsy
diagnosis. Epilepsy may be associated with a neurologic
disorder, such as a stroke, tumor or head trauma. But, in many
cases, a specific cause of seizures cannot be identified.
mild epilepsy requires treatment, because seizures can be
dangerous during activities such as driving or swimming. As in
your case, medication to reduce or eliminate seizures usually
is the first step in treatment. For many people, thatís all
they need to keep seizures in check. A variety of
anti-epileptic drugs are available. Doctors take into
consideration your condition, medical history, how often you
have seizures, your age and other medication you take, among
other factors, when choosing which anti-epileptic medication
take several tries to find the right medication and dosage to
control seizures. About two-thirds of patients have their
seizures effectively controlled with either the first or
second drug they use. Itís not uncommon for people to be
seizure-free from that point on. Eventually, more than half of
children with epilepsy who arenít experiencing symptoms can
discontinue medications and go on to live a seizure-free life.
Many adults also can discontinue medications after two or more
years without seizures.
decide if discontinuing medication is a good choice for you,
your doctor should carefully review your overall medical
history, as well as your history of seizures. If your seizures
were mild and infrequent before you began taking
anti-epileptic drugs, it may be more likely that you will not
have additional seizures when you stop taking the medication.
doctor also may suggest several tests to assess your condition
before you stop taking medication. These could include an
electroencephalogram, or EEG, to check the electrical activity
in your brain. Depending on your situation, an MRI of your
head may be helpful, too, if you have not had one in the past.
If your doctor does recommend you stop taking anti-epileptic
medication, and you remain seizure-free, you still may need
follow-up appointments from time to time to check your
important to note that anti-epileptic medications usually arenít
suddenly discontinued. That could provoke seizures. In most
cases, doctors prescribe a tapering of anti-epileptic drugs,
which involves a gradual withdrawal over several weeks.
appointment to talk with your doctor about your interest in
discontinuing medication. From your description, it sounds
like your situation is one in which that could be a realistic