Should You Switch Epilepsy Medications?

Half of people with newly diagnosed epilepsy will become seizure-free with the first epilepsy drug they try. For the rest, it’s try, try again: You switch epilepsy medications, adjust to side effects, and wait to see if the new drug works. Or you might get your seizures under control but find you can’t handle the drug’s side effects.

Before you ask your doctor about a switch, make sure you’re taking the current medicine exactly as prescribed. Missing doses, splitting pills, or not following instructions to the letter could make a difference. It can affect your control over seizures or side effects. If you’re following directions to a T but you still have breakthrough seizures, talk to your neurologist or epileptologist (an expert in treating epilepsy). They’ll decide if you should switch medications.

Over time, most people become seizure-free with minimal side effects while taking epilepsy drugs. But switching meds takes time and patience. Finding the right drug for you can require equal parts art and science — and sometimes a bit of luck.

A Leap of Faith

Even the best doctors don’t know which drug will work best for any given person.

As part of managing the condition, your doctors will try to get a sense of the full picture: your type of seizures, your age and gender, other medical conditions, medicines you’re on or may be on later, and epilepsy drugs you’ve tried in the past.

Based on that information, she may narrow down the field to a few drugs to try. But after that, it’s an educated leap of faith.