How Carbamazepine Works to Control Seizures

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Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological problem, according to the Epilepsy Foundation , and affects about 48 out of every 100,000 people in the United States.  Epilepsy is considered a spectrum condition, meaning it has a wide range of types of seizures, and symptoms may vary from patient to patient.  The Epilepsy Foundation posted a new definition of epilepsy which states:

“Seizures and epilepsy are not the same. An epileptic seizure is a transient occurrence of signs and/or symptoms due to abnormal excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain. Epilepsy is a disease characterized by an enduring predisposition to generate epileptic seizures and by the neurobiological, cognitive, psychological, and social consequences of this condition. Translation: a seizure is an event and epilepsy is the disease involving recurrent unprovoked seizures.”   (Source)

There are different medications used for seizures, including carbamazepine.

Carbamazepine is a medication used to treat certain types of seizures (epilepsy).  It is also prescribed for the treatment of:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Trigeminal neuralgia (tic douloureux)
  • Partial seizures
  • Facial nerve pain
  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizures (grand mal)
  • Bipolar disorder in remission
  • Mania associated with bipolar disorder
  • Attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity (ADHD)

How does carbamazepine work?

Carbamazepine is an anticonvulsant that works by restoring the normal balance of electrical nerve activity in the brain.

How do I take carbamazepine?

This medication is prescribed by your doctor based on your medical needs and how you respond to treatment, as well as your medical history and other medications you may be taking.

Carbamazepine is usually started at a low dose which is then gradually increased until you see the benefits your doctor would like for you to see.  It is important not to increase or decrease your dose without your doctor’s guidance.  Do not stop taking carbamazepine without speaking to your doctor.

Be sure to take this medication regularly and at the same time each day.

Carbamazepine is a generic medication. It is the active ingredient in the brand-name product Tegretol®.

Brand name Tegretol® – 200 mg tablets

Generic carbamazepine – 200 mg tablets

Available in different strengths and formulations including:

  • Tablet
  • Chewable tablet
  • Extended release tablet
  • Extended release capsule
  • Suspension

What are the side effects of carbamazepine?

Speak to your pharmacist about other possible side effects you may experience when taking carbamazepine.  Common side effects that may occur include:

  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

Serious side effects to talk to your doctor about immediately include:

  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Allergic reactions including trouble breathing, rashes, itching, swelling of the face/tongue/throat
  • Signs of liver problems including yellow eyes/skin, abdominal pain, dark urine
  • Mouth sores
  • Fainting
  • Unusual heartbeat
  • Vision changes
  • Joint pain
  • Swelling of feet or arms
  • Tingling in the arms/legs

Speak to your pharmacist about other side effects associated with carbamazepine.

What other medications may interfere with carbamazepine?

Always be sure to tell your doctor if you are taking any other medications.  Certain monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), when taken with carbamazepine,  may cause a serious or fatal drug interaction.  Examples of MAOIs include, phenelzine, rasagiline, selegiline, tranylcypromine, isocarboxazid, and moclobemide,.   Speak to your doctor about what to do and how and when to stop/start this medication if you are taking MAOIs. This medication may also reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills.

Tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are taking any medications that may cause drowsiness such as antihistamines, or medications for anxiety and/or sleep such as diazepam, zolpidem or alprazolam, as well as any narcotic medications, such as hydrocodone or codeine.

Avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice while taking carbamazepine.

NOTE: This is not a complete list of medications that may interfere with carbamazepine. Speak to your doctor about what other medications and supplements to avoid.

Was this article helpful? Other related articles include:

How Dilantin® helps prevent and control seizures.

6 common food and prescription medication combinations to avoid.

Is a generic medication as effective as a brand-name medication?

If you have questions about your prescription medications or any other medication, please contact our team at Canada Online Health by calling toll free 1-800-399-DRUG (3784). One of our patient representatives will be happy to assist you or transfer you to a licensed Canadian pharmacist for a free consultation.

This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor.  It is not intended to be used as either a diagnosis or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation.  If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911).

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