Researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London and University College London have found that certain fatty acids may be able to effectively treat epilepsy.
The fatty acids were key components of foods from the the ketogenic diet, which physicians may prescribe to younger epileptic patients who do not respond to drug therapies. The eating regimen is high in fat and low in carbohydrates. Even though it has been shown to be an effective treatment, it does have side effects, such as constipation, hypoglycemia, stunted growth and bone fractures.
The researchers hope that they can create an oral medication from fatty acids that will provide the same positive results of the ketogenic diet without the health-hazards. Currently, Royal Holloway is seeking financial backing to help develop the drug.
“This is an important breakthrough. The family of medium chain fatty acids that we have identified provide an exciting new field of research with the potential of identifying, stronger, and safer epilepsy treatments,” said research author Robin Williams, an employee of Centre of Biomedical Sciences at Royal Holloway.
Symptoms of epilepsy differ from one patient to the next, and they may range from staring spells to convulsions. To diagnose the disorder, many times doctors will have the patients wear an electroencephalogram (EEG) recorder for a couple of days, which tracks the electrical activity of the brain. Patients with epilepsy may have skewed neural electrical activity.
Other diagnostic tests will analyze a person’s blood sugar, blood chemistry, kidney function and liver function. Patients may also receive a spinal tap.
According to the NIH, if a tumor, bleeding in the brain or abnormal blood vessels are the cause of epilepsy, many times surgery treat it. There are anticonvulsant medications as well that can help curtail the onset of seizures.
Lifestyle changes may also be implemented to help reduce the risk of seizures. Certain risk factors include a lack of sleep, emotional stress, newly prescribed medications and consuming alcohol. The NIH also notes that clinical evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful in easing epilepsy symptoms. People can get omega-3s from chia seeds, flax seeds and an Omegakrill supplement from Dr. Newton’s Naturals.
The NIH also reports that some patients with epilepsy may be able to stop taking their drugs after they display no symptoms for several years. Some people even grow out of epilepsy as they enter adulthood.
While epilepsy usually does not cause death, it can result in serious injury, especially if a seizure happens when doing something dangerous, such as operating heavy equipment.