You may be taking one or more medicines
seizures. To get the most benefit from them, you need
to consistently take the right dose of the right medicine at the right time.
This can be difficult. But by following a few key tips, you can do it.
Become informed about the medicines you are
taking. Learn their names, their purpose, and their expected side effects. Know
how often you are supposed to take them and what dose you are supposed to
Make taking your medicine as simple as possible. Plan times
to take your medicines when you are doing other regularly occurring activities,
like eating a meal or getting ready for bed. This will make it easier for you
to remember to take your medicines.
Take a list of your medicines
with you whenever you visit your doctor. Let your doctor know if you are having
problems with your medicine schedule or if you have any changes in your health
that might affect your medicine needs, such as a sudden increase in seizures,
weight gain or loss, unexpected or intolerable side effects from the medicine,
or another medical condition.
It may take time and careful,
controlled adjustments by you and your doctor to find the combination,
schedule, and dosing of medicine to best manage your
epilepsy. The goal is to prevent seizures while
causing as few unwanted side effects as possible. After the most effective
medicine program is determined, be sure you follow it exactly as
Medicines do not
cure epilepsy, but they can prevent seizures. The medicine used to treat
epilepsy work in various ways to help reduce the abnormal electrical impulses
in your brain. The specific medicines prescribed for you depend first on what
kinds of seizures you have. Your age, activity level, overall physical
condition, and other health issues as well as the side effects, health risks,
and costs of different medicines, may also help determine what kind of medicine
is best for you.
Remember, it can take some time and careful,
controlled adjustments by your doctor to find the most effective combination,
schedule, and dose of medicine to control your seizures. Preventing seizures
with as few unwanted side effects as possible is the goal. It is important to
follow your medicine schedule exactly as prescribed.
Antiepileptic medicines are most effective when you keep the proper
medicine level in your body. Your doctor has set up a schedule of medicine
dosages that keeps that proper level. Even slight changes in your medicine
schedule or doses can throw the whole system off. If you do not take your
medicines properly, you could begin (or continue) having seizures.
Taking your medicines properly can help you achieve better control over
your epilepsy. If you have lost work or driving privileges, getting seizures
under control—and keeping them under control—may help you get back to work or
back behind the wheel. Not having seizures means you can avoid the dangers of
seizures (falls, drowning, choking) and avoid stays in the hospital.
Test Your Knowledge
Even small changes in the times that I take my
medicines can affect how they work.
Here's how you
can get started taking your medicines properly.
Make a medicine plan
Work with your doctor to
make a medicine plan. Things to think about include:
Names of all medicines. Write down both the
brand name and generic name for your medicines. Have your doctor check the
list. You can use this list to verify that the medicines you get from the
pharmacy are correct. Get a clear explanation of what the medicine does and why
you are taking it.
Medicine schedule. Be sure you understand how
much of each medicine to take and when to take each one. Ask your doctor if your medicine schedule can be simpler. This may make it easier for you to
remember to take your medicines as directed.
How to handle missed
doses. Even the most careful people miss a dose now and then. Talk with your
doctor about what you should do if you miss a dose of your medicine. Discuss
and write down what to do for each medicine. What you should do if you miss a
dose may differ from one medicine to another.
Medicine costs. If
cost is a consideration in building a medicine plan, ask your doctor whether
less expensive, equally effective generic brands would be appropriate for you.
For most people who take prescription medicine, taking a generic form of that
medicine is less expensive and works just as well as the brand name medicine.
But in epilepsy, the very small differences between brand name and generic
medicines may cause that medicine to no longer work in controlling your
seizures.1 Talk with your doctor if you are worried that a generic version of
your medicine will not work for you. You also may
want to ask your doctor for a 90-day supply of your medicines if it costs less. Compare prices between several pharmacies. And consider mail-order
Medicines to avoid. Some nonprescription medicines and
drugs may react with your prescribed epilepsy medicines. Make a list of
medicines to avoid. And check with your doctor before taking any medicines on
Taking medicines properly means
taking the right dose of the right medicines at the right time. To be sure you
are taking your medicines properly, you may want to have a system to keep
track of when and how you take your pills.
Make a list of all your medicines and keep it
up to date. At every visit with your doctor, review your
master list of medicines(What is a PDF document?).
Use a pillbox. Get a
pillbox that holds a week's worth of pills.
Post reminders. Get sticky note pads and post reminders to take
your medicines near clocks or on the bathroom mirror to keep you on
Taking your medicines
Keep the following in mind
as you follow your medicine plan.
Store medicines properly. Keeping medicines
in a place that is too hot, too cold, or too humid (a place that is humid has a
lot of water vapor in the air) may reduce their effectiveness. Find out from
your doctor or pharmacist how to properly store your medicines. Always remember
to store medicines out of the reach of children.
Watch for side
effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist what side effects to expect. Be sure to
tell your doctor if you are having side effects from your
Post a list of medicines to avoid in a place where you
can refer to it whenever you need to. Always check with your doctor before
taking any additional medicines, prescription or nonprescription. This includes
any herbal pills or dietary supplements.
Take your medicine list
with you for each visit with your doctor. And take time to review
Notify your doctor immediately if you start having more
seizures than usual. Let your doctor know if you have any changes in your
health that might affect your medicine needs, such as weight gain, pregnancy,
or another medical condition.
Test Your Knowledge
What tools can help me take my medicines
A daily planner can be very helpful in taking
your medicines properly. You can write your medicine schedule and doses in
the planner and take it with you to work or school or when you travel. All of
the answers are correct.
If you have questions about
this information, take it with you when you visit your doctor. You may want to
use a highlighter to mark areas or make notes in the margins of the pages where
you have questions.
If you don't already have a medicine plan,
schedule a time with your doctor to develop one.
More information about epilepsy and seizure disorders can
be found in these topics:
Liow K, et al. (2007). Position statement on the
coverage of anticonvulsant drugs for the treatment of epilepsy. Neurology, 68(16): 1249–1250.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.