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Anticonvulsants for Cerebral Palsy

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
lamotrigine Lamictal
levetiracetam Keppra
oxcarbazepine Trileptal
topiramate Topamax
zonisamide Zonegran

How It Works

Anticonvulsants reduce excess electrical activity in the brain.

Why It Is Used

Anticonvulsants are used to prevent or control seizures.

How Well It Works

Anticonvulsants successfully control or prevent seizures in most people with cerebral palsy.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you or your child has:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if you or your child has:

  • Hives or a skin rash.
  • Thoughts of suicide or serious changes in mood or behavior.
  • More seizures than normal or if seizures get worse.
  • Unsteady walking.
  • Fever along with a rash or swollen glands (while taking oxcarbazepine).
  • Pain or pressure around the eyes (while taking topiramate).
  • Mouth sores or bruising (while taking zonisamide).

Call your doctor if you or your child has:

  • Changes in vision, such as blurred or double vision.
  • Uncontrolled eye movements.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Feeling dizzy, drowsy, sleepy, or weak.
  • Belly pain, headache, breast pain, or other pain.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Memory problems.
  • Dry or sore throat.

Each medicine also has specific side effects. For example:

  • Lamotrigine has the potential to cause a serious, even life-threatening rash. This side effect is rare in adults but somewhat more common in children.
  • Topiramate and zonisamide have the potential to make you sweat less, and this causes your body temperature to rise. Be careful not to become overheated during exercise or hot weather because it could lead to heat stroke. If you take a hot bath or use a sauna, you may become dizzy or faint.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Many medicines for seizures can interact with other medicines you may be taking. This means that your seizure 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. Make sure to tell your doctor about all the medicines, herbal pills, and dietary supplements you are taking.

This medicine may cause you to become drowsy, dizzy, or less alert, which makes it harder for you to concentrate. If you are feeling sleepy, don't drive, operate machinery, or do anything else that could be dangerous to you or other people.

Some anticonvulsants make birth control pills less effective. Ask your doctor if you need other methods of birth control while taking this medicine.

Do not stop taking this medicine without first checking with your doctor. Stopping the medicine suddenly may cause your seizures to return or to occur more often.

If you take topiramate, drink plenty of fluids every day to help prevent kidney stones.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

When taken during pregnancy, some anticonvulsants (such as oxcarbazepine and topiramate) are known to slightly increase the chance of having a baby with birth defects. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you and your doctor must weigh the risks of using this medicine against the risks of not treating your seizures.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Last Revised September 20, 2012

Last Revised: September 20, 2012

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