All you need to know about Anticonvulsants

17 Feb
2015
By Amelia Smith

Anticonvulsants are a group of pharmacological agents used in the treatment of epileptic seizures. These medications are widely prescribed to regulate the mood swings that come with bipolar disorder and also for the treatment of neuropathic pain. A large number of anticonvulsant drugs are available in the market including Phenobarbital, Carbamazepine, Ethosuximide, Phenytoin, Clonazepam, Lorazepam, Diazepam, and Midazolam.

Anticonvulsants epilepsy

Studies have shown that some anticonvulsant drugs work better than others for certain conditions. Anticonvulsants work best when they are used for nerve pain including diabetic peripheral neuropathy and post-herpetic neuralgia. An estimated seven out of 10 people suffering from nerve pain have some relief from their pain if they take Carbamazepine. Additionally, anticonvulsants are also used to reduce chronic back pain.

More about anticonvulsant medications:

Various studies have shown that anticonvulsants are widely preferred for neuropathic pain disorders. Studies have also proved that some anticonvulsants are appropriate for the treatment of anxiety, depression, and some mood disorders. Specifically, Neurontin has been effective in treating psychiatric disorders as it works on the same Gaba receptors affected by stress. Additionally, Carbamazepine has been proved to be another good option for comorbid conditions and combination therapy. In recent studies, anticonvulsants have been shown to be effective in patients suffering from chronic back pain.

Anticonvulsant drugs may relieve chronic back pain in some people but not others. As one type of anticonvulsant drugs may work better as compared to others but are considered a reasonable treatment option. In addition, combination therapy is another good option for some individuals.

Side effects of anticonvulsants:

Adverse effects have been associated with anticonvulsants. Below are some of the rarest side effects of anticonvulsants:

  • Liver damage
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Inflammation of the pancreas
  • Kidney stones
  • Drop in the blood platelets or white blood cells
  • Potentially deadly skin rashes and toxic epidermal necrolysis

Doctors prescribe small doses of anticonvulsants to avoid side effects, but they increase the dosage gradually if needed. If the medications are prescribed for providing relief from chronic back pain, people may experience the below-mentioned side effects of anticonvulsants:

  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion and dizziness
  • Uncontrollable eye movements
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and belly pain
  • Weight gain
  • Gum disease
  • Itching, fever, and a rash that looks like measles

Things to be kept in mind:

Never stop taking anticonvulsants, suddenly. Always consult with your doctor because he/she will slowly reduce the dose of the medicine in order to avoid the withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, pain, sweating, nausea, and insomnia. Below are various other points that you should keep in mind:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning that anticonvulsants increase the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts. It doesn’t mean that should people stop using anticonvulsants. Instead, they need to be careful.
  • Anticonvulsants are not safe for everyone and to avoid the side effects of anticonvulsants be sure to tell your doctor about the medical conditions you have and the drugs you are taking.
  • If you are pregnant or planning to be, then talk to your doctor. As taking anticonvulsant drugs during pregnancy may put your baby at risk of major birth defects like growth retardation and deformities of the face and fingers.

Conclusion: A group of pharmacological agents used in the treatment of epileptic seizures and a variety of neuropathic pain syndromes is anticonvulsants. The correct usage of anticonvulsants is paramount if high levels of patient satisfaction and the avoidance of side effects are to be achieved. “Start low and go slow” is apt when starting a patient on an anticonvulsant drug to treat neuropathic pain.

 

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Amelia Smith

Nutritionist, herbalist, health and medicine writer and yoga enthusiast, Amelia Smith, is a professional in the health, nutrition and diet industry.

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