Home > Questions About Medicines for Epilepsy
While working with your doctor to plan a medicine routine
for yourself or your child, it may help you to talk about some of the choices
and issues involved. Some of the following questions might help you
Some medicines for
epilepsy have to be taken several times a day. This is
sometimes hard for children in school; people with busy, irregular schedules;
and people who have a hard time remembering to take their drugs. People who
have fewer daily doses may be more likely to follow the treatment plan. Talk
to your doctor about what to do if you miss a dose.
All antiepileptic medicines have side effects, but some may have side
effects that are more acceptable to you or your child than others.
Allergic or toxic reactions in the skin, liver, and blood may sometimes
result from use of antiepileptic medicines. Your age or medical history may
make you more likely to have one of these adverse reactions. Long-term use of
antiepileptic medicines, while often needed, may cause other health
problems. Ask your doctor to discuss the short-term and long-term risks of the
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a
warning on antiepileptic medicines and the risk of suicide and suicidal
thoughts. The FDA does not recommend that people stop using these medicines. Instead, people who take antiepileptic medicine should
be watched closely for warning signs of suicide. People who take antiepileptic
medicine and who are worried about this side effect should talk to a doctor.
For more information, see
warning signs of suicide in adults and
warning signs of suicide in children and teens.
Many medicines for epilepsy can interact with other medicines you may be
taking. This means that your epilepsy medicine may not work as well, or it may
affect the way another medicine you are taking works. Some of these
interactions can be dangerous. It is important to tell your doctor about all
the medicines, herbal pills, or dietary supplements you are taking.
If you have several types of seizures, you may need to take more than one
medicine to control them. The doctor will work with you to choose medicines
that will neither work against each other nor make side effects worse. If you
take medicine for health problems other than epilepsy, the doctor should choose
an antiepileptic medicine that will not react badly with your other medicine.
This is a special concern for older people, who are more likely to be taking
Some antiepileptic medicines can make birth
control pills less effective and make a woman more likely to become pregnant. A
woman taking birth control pills may need to change the dosage or use a
different type of birth control.
The costs of
medicines vary. Epilepsy often requires many years of treatment. If you can,
choose a medicine that you will be able to afford over the long run. High costs
may make you less likely to stay on your treatment plan.
keep the total costs in mind. Medicine may be expensive, especially with some
of the newer antiepileptic medicines. But successful treatment may also help you lower
your total costs by reducing doctor visits, hospitalization, and missed work
time. A medicine that controls your seizures and does not cause many side
effects may be worth the cost.
All medicines for epilepsy have some risk of birth defects.
But the risk of birth defects needs to be carefully compared to other risks to
the baby if the mother stops taking her epilepsy medicine. If you are thinking
about becoming pregnant, it is important to plan ahead and talk with your
doctor about the benefits and risks of taking epilepsy medicine during your
pregnancy. It you are already pregnant, it is not too late. The best thing to
do is talk to your doctor about your pregnancy before you make any changes to
the medicines you are taking.
Although most women with epilepsy
deliver healthy babies, the risk of birth defects, stillbirth, and seizure
problems is higher for women who have epilepsy. Most antiepileptic medicines
increase the risk even more, but stopping use of the medicine is not always the
best solution. You may start having more seizures if you stop taking your
medicine, and having seizures during pregnancy can harm the baby.
August 26, 2011
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics & Steven C. Schachter, MD - Neurology
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