Ethosuximide for epilepsy

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Ethosuximide for epilepsy


Generic NameBrand Name

How It Works

Ethosuximide reduces the type of brain activity associated with absence seizures.

Why It Is Used

Ethosuximide is one of the drugs of choice for children who have absence seizures.

Ethosuximide does not prevent any types of seizures other than absence seizures. Ethosuximide is sometimes used with other drugs to treat adults who have several types of generalized seizures.

How Well It Works

Ethosuximide is effective in preventing absence seizures in children and adults.1

Side Effects

Ethosuximide may cause stomach problems, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Loss of appetite.

It may also cause headache, mild drowsiness, dizziness, and hiccups.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning on antiepileptic medicines and the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts. The FDA does not recommend that people stop using these medicines. Instead, people who take antiepileptic medicine should be watched closely for warning signs of suicide. People who take antiepileptic medicine and who are worried about this side effect should talk to a doctor.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

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 epilepsy. The goal is to prevent seizures while causing as few side effects as possible. After you and your doctor figure out the medicine program that works best for you, make sure to follow your program exactly as prescribed.

  • 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 you are taking works. Some of these interactions can be dangerous. It is important to tell your doctor about all the medicines, herbal pills, and dietary supplements you are taking.
  • 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.
  • Other concerns. For some people, ethosuximide may produce side effects or carry risks that are not fully known yet. Report any unexpected side effects or problems to your doctor.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Blume WT (2003). Diagnosis and management of epilepsy. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 168(4): 441–448.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Steven C. Schachter, MD - Neurology
Last Revised January 26, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.