A leading epilepsy expert at Royal Holloway, University of London, has said there is a pressing need for new and more effective treatments that would make it possible for all sufferers to live seizure free.
On Purple Day today (Wednesday 26 March), a global epilepsy awareness day, Professor Robin Williams said many epilepsy patients' quality of life could be significantly improved thanks to advances currently being made in treatments.
"Epilepsy can have a devastating effect on people and their families and there are a range of serious side-effects associated with current treatments", said Professor Williams, from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway. "I believe that research represents the best hope of finding a cure for epilepsy and eventually we will develop new treatments so that no-one will have to experience seizures."
Last year, research by Professor Williams, in collaboration with Professor Matthew Walker, unlocked the secret to valproic acid, the most commonly prescribed treatment for epilepsy. The research identified how the drug works to block seizures in epilepsy sufferers, a fact that had remained a mystery for almost 50 years.
However, despite important breakthroughs in current treatments, the academic has said that further advances must also be made to offer medication with fewer side-effects.
He said: "There are a range of serious side-effects associated with valproic acid, including birth defects, tremors, kidney problems and alopecia. Developing more effective treatments would have a huge effect on the lives of those not responding well to current medication."
Around 600,000 people in the UK are living with epilepsy, and approximately 87 people are diagnosed with the condition every day.