|Type of medicine||Anti-epileptic|
|Available as||Tablets, chewable tablets, oral liquid, suppositories, and prolonged-release tablets|
If you have epilepsy, it means that you have had repeated seizures. A seizure is a short episode of symptoms caused by a burst of abnormal electrical activity in your brain. Different parts of the brain control different parts and functions of your body. Therefore, the symptoms that occur during a seizure depend on where the abnormal burst of electrical activity occurs. Symptoms that may occur during a seizure can affect your muscles, sensations, behaviour, emotions, consciousness, or a combination of these. Epilepsy cannot be 'cured', but the seizures can be prevented in most people by suitable anti-epileptic medication. Carbamazepine works by stabilising the electrical activity of your brain, which prevents the seizures from occurring.
Carbamazepine is also used in trigeminal neuralgia (severe burning or stabbing pains in your face), and occasionally as part of the treatment for bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic depression). This is because it can modify some types of pain, and control some mood disorders. If you have been given carbamazepine for these (or any other reasons), ask your doctor if you have questions about your treatment.
Before taking carbamazepine
Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking carbamazepine it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
- If you have heart, liver or kidney problems.
- If you have glaucoma (increased pressure in your eyes).
- If you have ever had any problems affecting your bone marrow.
- If you have porphyria (a rare inherited blood disorder).
- If you are taking other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines.
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or to any other medicine.
How to take carbamazepine
- Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. The leaflet will give you more information about the specific brand of carbamazepine you have been given, and a full list of possible side-effects from taking it.
- Take carbamazepine exactly as your doctor has told you. Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you how much to take and when to take it. Your dose will also be on the label of your pack. You need to take carbamazepine regularly every day to prevent the seizures from occurring.
- When first starting this treatment your doctor will give you a small dose and then gradually increase the dose. This allows your doctor to make sure that you have the dose that helps your condition and avoids any unwanted symptoms.
- You may take carbamazepine before, during or after meals.
- If you have been given carbamazepine prolonged-release tablets, you must swallow these tablets whole - not chewed or crushed. Swallow them with a drink of water.
- Carbamazepine chewable tablets should be chewed before being swallowed. You can swallow them with a little water if needed.
- If you are using the suppositories, they are to be inserted into your back passage (rectum). Never swallow them. If you are unsure how to use them, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
- Try to take your doses of carbamazepine at the same times each day. This will help you to avoid missing any of your doses.
- If you do forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
Getting the most from your treatment
- Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress. You also may need to have blood tests from time to time.
- When you first start a new treatment for epilepsy there may be a change in the number or type of seizures you experience. Your doctor will advise you about this.
- People with epilepsy must stop driving at first. Your doctor will advise you about when it may be possible for you to resume driving again. This will usually be after a year free of seizures.
- If you drink alcohol, ask your doctor for advice about taking carbamazepine and alcohol. Alcohol will increase the chance of you experiencing side-effects (especially drowsiness) and may not be recommended.
- If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable for you to take. This is because some medicines interfere with carbamazepine, and carbamazepine may also alter the way other medicines work.
- If you are a woman using hormonal contraception ('the pill'), discuss this with your doctor, as you may need to take a different strength of pill. This is because carbamazepine makes 'the pill' less effective. If you want to have a family, make sure you discuss this with your doctor well in advance of becoming pregnant. This is so that you can be given advice from a specialist before you become pregnant. If you become pregnant while you are taking carbamazepine, you must tell your doctor straightaway.
- While you are taking carbamazepine, there is a small risk that you may develop mood changes or distressing feelings, and thoughts about suicide. If this happens, you must tell your doctor straightaway.
- If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are taking carbamazepine.
- Do not stop taking this medicine unless your doctor tells you to do so. Stopping carbamazepine suddenly can cause problems and your doctor will probably want you to reduce your dose gradually if this is necessary.
Can carbamazepine cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. Many of the following common side-effects occur when first starting carbamazepine, but should soon settle down as your body adjusts to the new medicine. Speak with your doctor if they continue or become troublesome.
|Common carbamazepine side-effects - these affect around 1 in 10 people who take this medicine||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Feeling dizzy, sleepy, or tired
Blurred or double vision
|Do not drive or use tools or machines|
|Feeling or being sick||Stick to simple meals - avoid rich and spicy food|
|Headache||Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller. If this continues, ask your doctor for advice|
|Dry mouth||Try chewing sugar-free gum or sucking sugar-free sweets|
|Swollen feet or ankles, changes in your weight, feeling unsteady, itchy skin or rash, and an increased susceptibility to infection||If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor for advice|
Important: your doctor will have discussed with you the possibility of side-effects of this treatment that you must let your doctor know about. Contact your doctor straightaway if you experience any of the following:
- A high temperature and a sore throat.
- A severe skin rash.
- Mouth ulcers.
- You start bruising or bleeding easily.
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
How to store carbamazepine
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Important information about all medicines
Further reading & references
- British National Formulary; 62nd Edition (Sep 2011) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
- Manufacturer's PIL, Tegretol® Tablets; Manufacturer's PIL, Tegretol® Tablets, Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Ltd, electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated September 2010.
|Original Author: Helen Allen||Current Version: Helen Allen||Peer Reviewer: Prof Cathy Jackson|
|Last Checked: 14/03/2012||Document ID: 3558 Version: 23||© EMIS|
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.