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Finding the Right Treatment for Epilepsy

About one in 100 Americans will develop epilepsy in their lifetime. “Epilepsy is essentially a brain pathology that causes a tendency of recurring seizures,” explains Mark E. Farrenburg, MD, epileptologist at Cape Neurology Specialists. After experiencing a seizure, it is important you connect with a neurologist who can diagnose whether you have epilepsy, what type and what treatment options are right for you.

Different types of epilepsy can cause various types of seizures and respond differently to certain medications. In most cases, we can use medications to control the seizures, but sometimes surgery is the best option. The goal of treatment is complete seizure freedom.

The most common types of epilepsy are:

  • Focal epilepsy – Previously called partial epilepsy. This is the most common type when onset is in adulthood. This type of epilepsy arises from one or more specific areas in the brain, as opposed to the entire brain. It can be due to previously unknown brain malformations from development, birth injuries, stroke, tumor, infection, trauma or any other problem that causes injury to the brain. The type of seizures depend on where in the brain the seizure arises from and can present with strange smells or tastes, rising sensation in the stomach, staring with lip smacking, jerking or stiffening on one side, etc. This type can also cause the classic tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizure with stiffening and shaking on both sides.
  • Generalized epilepsy – This is the most common type when onset is in childhood or teenage years. Seizures arise from the entire brain as opposed to a single area. There is a presumed genetic cause though often not a specific abnormality. This type is usually more responsive to medications and some people will outgrow it. Seizure types may include staring spells, sudden muscle jerks, stiffening and shaking on both sides (tonic-clonic or grand mal seizure).
  • Combined epilepsy – Some people can have a combination of generalized and focal epilepsy. These can be people with birth injuries or genetic disorders which cause severe epilepsy or epilepsy syndromes. These can be some of the most difficult to treat.

“Any person who has a seizure should see a neurologist,” explains Mark E. Farrenburg, MD. “A neurologist is like a primary care doctor for epilepsy and can help significantly in ensuring a patient receives proper treatment while emphasizing the goal of seizure freedom.”


Cape Neurology Specialists specialize in the diagnoses, management and treatment of complicated disorders and injuries of the nervous system. To be referred to Dr. Farrenburg, please visit your primary care doctor or call 573-332-1972.

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