The selection of anticonvulsant drugs, or antieileptic, will depend on the type of epilepsy, the age of the individual, and his or her particular response to drug treatment.
Electrical signals are sent out from the brain to our arms and legs. Under normal conditions clear precise information would be given resulting in smooth movement. These signals can become paroxysmal and chaotic triggering disorderly muscular activity and mental changes very characteristic of an epileptic fit / convulsions.
Although epileptic by nature these fits can also be brought on by an outside force such as flashing lights, brain disease, maybe injury, by the toxic effects of certain drugs, or in young children by a high temperature.
What they are used for
Anticonvulsants the likes of carbamazepine etc. are used to reduce the risk of an epileptic fit, or can be given to stop one in progress. It is worth remembering that isolated seizures seldom require drug treatment. Anticonvulsants are the usual prescription for the treatment of epileptic fits and allow those that suffer to lead a normal life, the drugs also helps to reduce the possible brain damage that could result from recurring seizures.
Most sufferers of epilepsy need to take this medication on a regular basis to prevent fits. Usually one type of drug is used and treatment will continue over a 2 year period, until the individual is no longer fitting. However, one single drug may not have an effect and a combination of drugs may need to be used.
How they work
The brain cells pass electrical signals to cause body movement through the nerves to our muscles. In an epileptic fit it is said that excessive electrical activity starts in one part of the brain, and spreads to other areas causing uncontrolled brain cell stimulation most anticonvulsants work by dampening down the electrical signals.
This in turn prevents excessive build up which causes epileptic fits. A particular drug can be prescribed depending on the kind of epilepsy suffered, so to sum up anti-convulsants suppress the rapid and excessive firing of neurons that start a seizure. Because of this, anti-convulsants also have proven effective in treating many kinds of dysfunctional anxiety.
It would be nice to think that anticonvulsant only controlled the epilepsy unfortunately it is reported that no drug can control this problem without bringing with it side effects such as an inability to concentrate, lack of coordination, lethargy, and poor memory. A dosage will be found that will prevent the fits with the least side effects present. This means that the drug should be carefully tailored to the individual.
It may also take several months to find the correct dose required for that particular individual. This would be done by starting on a low dose then gradually increase the dose, until the correct dosage is achieved. Many of the experienced side effects do disappear after the first few weeks of treatment. It would also be usual for blood tests to take place periodically, to monitor levels of the drug in the body.
Each anticonvulsant comes with it particular side effects, most of them end up affecting the livers ability to breakdown other drugs, this in turn would have an affect of how other drugs you may be taking influence you. To reduce the risk of these interactions doctors try to limit the number of anticonvulsants used in any one individual.
If you are taking this medication and hope at some later time to have a baby you will need to discuss alternative medication with your doctor. This is because there may be risks to a developing baby.
Anticonvulsant medication needs to be taken as recommended by your doctor. Failing to do so may bring about fitting. This can happen when the anticonvulsant levels in your system are allowed to fall suddenly. You should never attempt to regulate your own dosage, any reduction will be done by your doctor if the need is there.
Listed below a number of the most common medications used to treat Convulsions (seizures). Highlighted medication will open in a new window.
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