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Antiepileptic drugs are medicines that reduce the frequency of epileptic seizures.
This class of drugs includes some drugs that have other uses as well. Phenobarbital is a barbiturate. Barbiturates were once widely used as sleeping pills and are still used in anesthesia for surgery. Clonazepam, clorazepate, and diazepam are members of the benzodiazepine group of drugs and are best known for their use as tranquilizers. Phenytoin is used both to control epileptic seizures and to control irregular heart beats.
There are several different types of epilepsy. Different drugs work best on different types of epilepsy. Following is a list of some of the drugs and their uses:
Although epilepsy is a collective term for a variety of different types of seizures, all forms of epilepsy start with a random discharge of nerve impulses into the brain. Antiepileptic drugs act by either raising the seizure threshold or by limiting the spread of impulses from one
Phenobarbital appears to act by slowing down all parts of the brain.
Hydantoins, the class that includes phenytoin, mephenytoin, and ethotoin, seem to work by reducing the flow of sodium into and out of nerve cells. This makes the cells less likely to send out spontaneous impulses, which are the beginning of an epileptic seizure.
Succinimides (ethosuximide, methsuximide, phensuximide) elevate the seizure threshold and make it harder for a nerve impulse to spread from one nerve to another.
Zonisamide may work in a manner similar to the hydantoins, by restricting sodium flow, but some studies contradict this theory.
Benzodiazepines may work by stimulating some brain chemicals that normally slow down nerve function, but the exact mechanism is not known.
Author Info: Samuel Uretsky PharmD, Thomson Gale, Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health, 2006This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare professional with any health concerns you may have.
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