|Type of medicine||Antiepileptic|
Neuropathic pain (pain resulting from damage to nerves)
|Available as||Tablets, capsules and oral liquid medicine|
Gabapentin is used either alone or alongside other medicines in the treatment of partial seizures, which are a type of epilepsy. A seizure is a short episode of symptoms which is caused by a burst of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. With a partial seizure, the burst of electrical activity stays in one part of the brain. Therefore, you tend to have localised or 'focal' symptoms. Gabapentin is used to control the symptoms of seizures and works by reducing the abnormal electrical activity in the brain, but exactly how it does this is not fully understood.
Gabapentin is also used to treat certain types of long-lasting pain caused by damage to nerves. This type of pain, called neuropathic pain, can be caused by a number of different diseases, such as diabetes (where it is called diabetic neuropathy) and shingles (where it is called postherpetic neuralgia).
Although gabapentin is only licensed for use in epilepsy and neuropathic pain, it may also prescribed to help to prevent attacks of migraine. If you have been given it for this reason, then you should speak with your doctor if you have any questions about your treatment.
Before taking gabapentin
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 gabapentin it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
- If you have kidney problems.
- If you have diabetes.
- If you have ever had a mental health problem known as psychosis.
- 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 gabapentin
- Before starting this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. The leaflet will give you more information about gabapentin and any possible side-effects from taking it.
- Take gabapentin exactly as your doctor has told you to. You will be advised to take a small dose when you first start taking gabapentin and then to increase your doses over a few days as your body gets used to it. Your doctor or pharmacist will explain this to you and your dose will also be on the label of your pack.
- Gabapentin is not suitable for children under 6 years of age but, if it has been prescribed for a child who is older than this, check the label carefully to make sure you are giving the correct dose.
- You can take gabapentin before or after meals. Swallow the tablets/capsules with a drink of water.
- Once you are taking a regular amount of gabapentin, try to take your doses 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, but do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
- If you need to take an antacid or indigestion remedy, do not take it during the two hours before and the two hours after you take gabapentin. This is because they interfere with the way gabapentin works.
Instructions for using the dosing syringe with gabapentin oral solution:
- Remove the bottle cap, and push the syringe adaptor into the top of the open bottle.
- Insert the syringe into the adapter.
- Turn the bottle (with the syringe connected to it) upside down.
- Gently pull out the plunger of the syringe so that the solution fills the syringe to the mark which corresponds to your dose.
- Turn the bottle the correct way up again, and remove the syringe from the bottle.
- Put the tip of the syringe into your mouth, and gently push the plunger so that the liquid is released into your mouth.
- Replace the bottle cap. Wash the syringe with water after each use.
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.
- If you are taking gabapentin for epilepsy, when you first start a new treatment 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.
- While you are taking gabapentin, there is a small risk that you may develop mood changes or distressing thoughts and feelings about suicide. If this happens, tell your doctor straightaway.
- If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with gabapentin.
- If you are a woman and want to have a family, make sure you discuss this with your doctor. This is so that you can be given advice from a specialist before you become pregnant.
- Do not stop taking this medicine unless your doctor tells you to stop. Stopping gabapentin suddenly can cause problems and your doctor will probably want you to reduce your dose gradually if this is necessary.
Can gabapentin cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.
|Common gabapentin side-effects - these affect around 1 in 10 people who take this medicine||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Feeling drowsy, tired, unsteady or dizzy
Blurred vision and other eyesight problems
|If any of these happen, do not drive or use tools or machines|
|Headache||Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller|
|Feeling or being sick, indigestion, stomach ache||Try eating smaller meals and stick to simple foods|
|Diarrhoea||Drink plenty of water to replace the lost fluids|
|Constipation||Try to eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water each day|
|Dry mouth||Try chewing sugar-free gum or sucking sugar-free sweets|
|Infections, flu-like symptoms, an increased appetite, flushing,
increased blood pressure, changes in weight, changes in emotions or mood, fits, movement difficulties, feeling shaky, difficulty sleeping,
tingling feelings, vertigo, breathing difficulties, cough, gum changes, bruises, muscle or joint pains, impotence, and swollen feet or ankles
|If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor for advice|
Important: if you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor for advice straightaway:
- Severe stomach pain with sickness (these may be symptoms of an inflamed pancreas).
- A skin rash, or any swelling of your mouth or face (these may be symptoms of an allergic reaction).
- Any yellowing of your skin or of the whites of your eyes (these may be symptoms of jaundice).
- Any unusual bruising or bleeding (these may be symptoms of a blood disorder).
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.
How to store gabapentin
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
- Once a bottle of gabapentin oral solution has been opened, it will keep for 30 days. After this time, make sure you have a fresh supply.
Important information about all medicines
If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.
Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital at once. Take the container with you, even if it is empty, so the doctor knows what has been taken.
This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.
Further reading & references
- Manufacturer's PIL, Neurontin® Capsules and Tablets; Pfizer Limited, electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated June 2011.
- Manufacturer's PIL, Gabapentin 50 mg/ml Oral Solution; Rosemont Pharmaceuticals Limited, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated August 2012.
- British National Formulary; 64th Edition (Sep 2012) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
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.
Dr Helen Huins