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Anticonvulsant drugs typically are used to control seizures in people who have epilepsy. These drugs may also be used to treat other painful conditions, such as post-herpetic neuralgia and fibromyalgia.
Some anticonvulsant drugs may work better than others for certain conditions.
About 2 out of 3 people with nerve pain who take gabapentin or carbamazepine have some relief from their pain. Examples of nerve pain include post-herpetic neuralgia and diabetic peripheral neuropathy.1, 2
Common but temporary side effects may include dizziness, drowsiness, and fatigue. Tell your doctor if you think you are having side effects, which may include:
Do not suddenly stop taking an anticonvulsant. Your doctor will slowly reduce the dose of this medicine so that you won't have withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, nausea, pain, sweating, and insomnia.
The FDA has issued a warning on anticonvulsants and the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts. The FDA does not recommend that people stop using these medicines. Instead, people who take anticonvulsant medicine should be watched closely for warning signs of suicide. People who take anticonvulsant 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.)
Medicine will be started in low doses and then slowly increased until it effectively reduces your chronic pain.
Anticonvulsants are not safe for everyone. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medical conditions you have and other medicines you are taking to avoid side effects and complications.
Anticonvulsants may increase the chance of birth defects. If you are pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant, talk to your doctor before taking medicines.
- Wiffen PJ, et al. (2005). Gabapentin for acute and chronic pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3).
- Wiffen PJ, et al. (2005). Carbamazepine for acute and chronic pain in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3).
- Moore RA, et al. (2009). Pregabalin for acute and chronic pain in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3).
- Fall M, et al. (2010). EAU guidelines on chronic pelvic pain. European Urology, 57(1): 35–48.
- Gronseth G, et al. (2008). Practice parameter: The diagnostic evaluation and treatment of trigeminal neuralgia (an evidence-based review): Report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the European Federation of Neurological Societies. Neurology, 71(15): 1183–1190.
Last Revised: April 5, 2012
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