Through The Forest Of Side Effects

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Side effects. That big, tall, dark, ferocious, seemingly never ending forest of what to expect the moment you send in the troops, however many times a day your neurologist schedules, to battle back the storm happening inside your mind.  The moment your hand twists off the cap to the medication bottle, the moment the medication tumbles into your hand, the moment your hand catapults the medication into your mouth, the moment that water washes the medication away and straight to work, it’s through the forest you must prepare to set forth.

I cannot stress this enough. You must be prepared for side effects of medication. It’s a strong probability that they will come. You must be physically prepared, emotionally prepared and spiritually prepared. Keep a journal of any and all side effects you experience when on epilepsy medication.

Most often, the effects are minimal and do not last very long. Often times they can be treated by adjusting the dosage or how you take the dosage.

Some common side effects of seizure medication:

Some common side effects that you might take notice of within the first few weeks of taking seizure medication could include:

  • Feeling Tired
  • Upset Stomach
  • Dizziness, or Blurred Vision

Some of these might not happen or can be handled okay if the medicine is started at a lower dose and increased slowly. The side effects typically will go away over many weeks or months.
Different seizure medicines tend to show different types of side effects. In order to find out what effects are most common with your medication, it’s best to speak with your neurologist and/or research the specific medication website. Even though a certain effect is common with your medication, this doesn’t mean that it is likely to happen to you. Many people living with epilepsy have minimal side effects. Some people find that they have no issues with side effects at all.

Common Seizure Medication Side Effects Continued:

Because seizure medicines work in the central nervous system, most cause some level of drowsiness or dizziness, at least at the beginning of working. Also, most epilepsy medications can cause suicidal thoughts or actions, and/or bring on or worsen depression.

Seizure medicines have a variety of possible side effects. Below is a list of potential side effects of an assortment of seizure medications.

Acetazolamide (Diamox):

  • Kidney Stones
  • Increased urination
  • Loss of potassium

Benzodiazepines (Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, Onfi):

  • Dependence
  • Possible severe seizures on sudden withdrawal
  • Respiratory depression
  • Increased risk of Glaucoma
  • Liver injury

Carbamazepine (Tegretol) and related drugs:

  • Upset stomach
  • Serious (even fatal) skin reactions
  • Serious blood disorders
  • Reduced sodium levels (oxcarbazepine)

Ethosuximide (Zarontin) and derivatives:

  • Serious blood disorders

Gabapentin (Neurontin):

  • Weight Gain
  • Behavioral changes including Hyperactivity

Lacosamide (Vimpat):

  • Skin Rash
  • Changes in heartbeat with possible Fainting
  • Drug dependence

Lamotrigine (Lamictal):

  • Serious rash
  • Stomach problems
  • Difficulty sleeping

Levetiracetam (Keppra, Keppra XR):

  • Headache
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Weight Loss
  • Changes in behavior
  • Changes in blood count

Perampanel (Fycompa):

  • Severe changes in mood and behavior, including hostility, aggression, suicidal thoughts
  • Weight gain
  • Drug dependence

Phenobarbital and derivatives:

  • Birth Defects
  • Memory Loss
  • Depression

Phenytoin (Dilantin):

  • Body hair growth
  • Birth defects
  • Gum Disease
  • Seizures with higher doses

Pregabalin (Lyrica):

  • Swelling of hands and feet
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Weight gain

Rufinamide (Banzel):

  • EKG changes
  • Interference with oral contraceptives

Tiagabine (Gabitril):

  • Tremor
  • Agitation
  • Seizures in non-epilepsy patients

Topiramate (Topamax):

  • Increased risk for glaucoma
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Decreased sweating
  • Increase in body temperature

Valproic acid and derivatives (Depakene, Depakote):

  • Stomach upset
  • Temporary loss or thinning of hair
  • Pancreatitis
  • Toxicity to liver
  • Weight gain
  • Birth defects

Zonisamide (Zonegran):

  • Kidney stones
  • Rise in body temperature
  • Metabolic acidosis

For some “trekking through the forest” of side effects of seizure medications, admitting to family, friends, doctors, counselors, Pastors, perhaps even yourself when something doesn’t seem right, it can be a frightening or even an embarrassing thing!  However, it doesn’t have to be at all. If you find yourself experiencing thoughts, feelings or changes that just don’t seem right, that just don’t seem like you, know with confidence that you have done nothing wrong and you are not alone.

The best thing that you can do is talk to those closest to you about what is happening, the moment that you notice the happening. Journal the changes you’re experiencing in detail. Pick up the phone and call your doctor or neurologist straight away so a correction can be made quickly. Sit down with a family member, spouse or close friend. Schedule an appointment to speak with your Pastor.

The important thing to know is that you want to be given the right medication and/or dosage that will lead you on the right path to a cure. Not a remedy that will cause you to constantly stumble on your way forward to a cure. Be open and honest with yourself, be open and honest with those who love and care about you, all around you. Yes, epilepsy medication is a remedy but it also has the potential to come with a forest of side effects and you’ve got to be prepared along the journey for those as well! Whatever the side effects may be for you. It is different for each and every individual.

What side effects, if any, are you up against in regards to your epilepsy medication? What do you do to combat the side effects?

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