Refractory epilepsy means that your seizures are not controlled by medicines and are recurrent. It is also called intractable or drug-resistant epilepsy.

To manage and control seizures, certain things can help, like combining drugs or consuming a special diet.

An electronic device will be placed under your skin that delivers electrical signals to one of your nerves, called the vagus nerve. This may help decrease the number of seizures.

There is a surgery that removes a part of the brain that causes your seizures. With any of these treatments, you may still need to undergo epilepsy treatment for a lifetime.

It’s common to feel depressed when your epilepsy is not responding well to the medicine that you’re taking. You can talk to your family members about what you feel. There are also groups of people who can relate to your condition. Join them and share your experiences with them.


Symptoms of refractory epilepsy include the following:

  • Having seizures even while taking anti-seizure medications. The seizures may take on different forms, and they can last from a few seconds or a few minutes
  • Convulsions, which means that you can’t stop your body from shaking.

When you have a seizure, you may also:

  • Be unconcious
  • Lose bowel and bladder control
  • Have muscle stiffness
  • Bite your tongue


Your doctor has several ways to diagnose refractory epilepsy. They may ask you questions such as:

  • How often do you have seizures?
  • Do you ever skip doses of your medicine?
  • Does epilepsy run in your family?
  • Do you still have seizures after taking medicine?

The doctor may also conduct a test called an electroencephalogram. To perform this, the doctor will place metal discs called electrodes on your scalp to measure brain activity.

A CT scan of your brain may also be taken. An MRI of your brain can also be obtained. These tests are helpful to locate where the seizures come from.



Your doctor may take a second look at the drug you’re taking. They may prescribe another medicine, either alone or mixed with other medicines to see if it lessens your seizures.

Many drugs can treat epilepsy, including:

  • Cannabidiol
  • Gabapentin
  • Lamotrigine
  • Levetiracetam
  • Oxcarbazepine
  • Tiagabine
  • Topiramate
  • Zonisamide

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