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There are a wide variety of seizure medications, or anticonvulsants, available to patients suffering from epilepsy. Some medications are useful for stopping seizures as they are happening, while others are long-term, preventative drugs to keep epileptic patients from having further episodes. Different drugs work by affecting the brain in different ways, and some are therefore more effective on certain types of epilepsy and seizures than others, so it is important for a doctor to determine what type of epilepsy a patient has before prescribing a drug or drugs; he or she should also evaluate other factors such as the patient's tolerance for side effects or other medications the patient may take.
Some varieties of seizure medications are typically used on their own, while others often work best when taken in conjunction with others. Older medications, which have been in use for many years, are known as first-generation anticonvulsants. Newer drugs that have been developed more recently are called second-generation anticonvulsants.
Patients who are being treated during an active seizure may receive seizure medications that work fast to stop the episode from continuing. Tranquilizers such as diazepam, clonazepam or clorazepate can help bring a seizure under control quickly. Another drug that may be administered directly using an IV is phenytoin; this medication may also be an option for long-term treatment of certain types of seizures.
Several first-generation seizure medications are standard treatments for a wide range of seizures. These are drugs that are used for management purposes, meaning they are prescribed to keep people who have had seizures from having more, though they do not actually cure the underlying disorder that causes them. Phenytoin and carbamazepine are common drugs used for partial and generalized grand mal seizures; some others include phenobarbital, valproate, and primidone. Valproate can also be used in the treatment of petit mal seizures, as can the drug ethosuximide.
Many of the second-generation anticonvulsants are typically used in combination with other drugs as part of treatment; like the first-generation drugs, they are used proactively to stop further seizures in confirmed epileptics. These types of seizure medications are often good for treating partial seizures; some examples include gabapentin, lamotrigine, and tiagabine. These drugs, as well as zonisamide and pregabalin, are typically indicated for use in adults only. For children suffering from seizures, drugs such as levetiracetam and oxcarbazepine may be prescribed.