Valproate for Epilepsy
What To Think About
It may take time and careful, controlled adjustments by you and your doctor to find the combination, schedule, and dosing of medicine to best manage your Reference epilepsy Opens New Window. The goal is to prevent seizures while causing as few side effects as possible. After you and your doctor figure out the program that works best for you, make sure to follow your program exactly as prescribed.
- Adverse effects. The weight gain that can result from use of valproate can be quite significant and is a major concern for some people. High levels of valproate may also cause severe Reference tremors Opens New Window that make certain types of work and activities quite difficult.
- Serious health risks. Valproate may cause liver damage (called hepatotoxicity). This liver damage can be fatal, although only children younger than age 10 have died from it. Children ages 2 and younger who are taking more than one drug and have other brain and nervous system disorders are at highest risk. Routine blood tests and careful monitoring can lower the risk. The risk of liver disorders caused by valproate is extremely low in adults.
- Drug interactions. 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 that 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. Valproate is a good choice for women taking birth control pills, because it will not reduce the effectiveness of the pills.
- Risk of birth defects. 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, be sure 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. Your doctor may be especially concerned about valproate use. One study found a link between valproate use during the first Reference trimester Opens New Window and a higher risk of having a baby with birth defects. Pregnant women who used valproate during the first trimester had a higher risk of having a baby with birth defects than pregnant women who took no medicine for their epilepsy or who took a different antiepileptic medicine during the first trimester.Reference 2
- Other concerns. For some people, valproate may cause side effects or carry risks that are not yet fully known. Report any unexpected side effects or problems to your doctor.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: August 26, 2011|
|Medical Review:||Reference Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Reference Steven C. Schachter, MD - Neurology