Anticonvulsants medications are used to prevent or treat convulsions (seizures) in people with epilepsy. Epilepsy is not a single disease - it is a set of symptoms that may have different causes in different people. The common thread is an imbalance in the brain's electrical activity. This imbalance causes seizures, that may affect part or all of the body and may cause a loss of consciousness. anticonvulsants drugs act on the brain to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures.
Patients on anticonvulsants drugs should see a physician regularly while on therapy, especially during the first few months. The physician will check to make sure the medicine is working as it should and will note unwanted side effects. The physician may also adjust the dosage during this period. Valproic acid can cause serious liver damage, especially in the first 6 months of treatment. Children are particularly at risk, but anyone taking this medicine should see their physician regularly for tests of liver function and should be alert to symptoms of liver damage, such as yellow skin and eyes, facial swelling, loss of appetite, general feeling of illness, loss of appetite, and vomiting. If liver problems are suspected, call a physician immediately
Anticonvulsants drugs may interact with medicines used during surgery, dental procedures, or emergency treatment. These interactions could increase the chance of side effects. Anyone who is taking anticonvulsants should be sure to tell the health care professional in charge before having any surgical or dental procedures or receiving emergency treatment.
Some people feel drowsy, dizzy, lightheaded, or less alert when using these drugs, especially when they first begin taking them or when their dosage is increased. Anyone who takes anticonvulsants drugs should not drive, use machines or do anything else that might be dangerous until they have found out how the drugs affect them.
The most common side effects are constipation, mild nausea or vomiting and mild dizziness, drowsiness, or lightheadedness. These problems usually go away as the body adjusts to the drug and do not require medical treatment. Less common side effects, such as diarrhea, sleep problems, aching joints or muscles, increased sensitivity to sunlight, increased sweating, hair loss, enlargement of facial features, excessive hair growth, muscle twitching, and breast enlargement in males also may occur and do not need medical attention unless they persist or are troublesome.
Other side effects which may need medical attention are
- Slurred speech or stuttering
- Unusual excitement, irritability, or nervousness
- Blurred or double vision
- Mood or mental changes
- Increase in seizures
- Bleeding, tender, or swollen gums
- Skin rash or itching
- Enlarged glands in neck or armpits and
Some anticonvulsants drugs should not be taken within 2 to 3 hours of taking antacids or medicine for diarrhea. These medicines may make the anticonvulsants drugs less effective. Consult the pharmacist or physician for more information.
Birth control pills may not work properly when anticonvulsants drugs are being taken. To prevent pregnancy, ask the physician or pharmacist if additional methods of birth control should be used while taking anticonvulsants drugs.
Anticonvulsants drugs may interact with many other medicines. When this happens, the effects of one or both of the drugs may change or the risk of side effects may be greater. Anyone who takes anticonvulsants drugs should let the physician know all other medicines he or she is taking. The drugs that may interact with certain anticonvulsants drugs are:
- Medicines that contain calcium, such as antacids and calcium supplements
- Blood thinning drugs
- Antibiotics such as clarithromycin(Biaxin), erythromycins, and sulfonamides(sulfa drugs)
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Female hormones
- Male hormones
The list above does not include every drug that may interact with anticonvulsants drugs. One has to be sure to check with a physician or pharmacist before combining anticonvulsants drugs with any other prescription or nonprescription medicine.