Anticonvulsants are basically medications which are prescribed to treat seizure disorders. Medically, seizures are episodes of abnormal electrical brain activities which causes jerks, spasms and twitches. Anticonvulsants prevent seizures by calming hyperactive brain activities thus minimizing, if not preventing the occurence of seizures. Apart from seizure disorders, anticonvulsants are also being used to treat bipolar disorders by acting as mood stabilizers.
It is important to take note that seizure is not actually a disease and is not synonymous to epilepsy. Seizure is a mere symptom and is just manifested by abnormal movements or behaviors due to electrical brain activities. Epilepsy is more of a recurring type of seizure tendencies and composed of a group of signs and symptoms.
Epilepsy is geenrally treated by drug therapy and may also be given a special diet. In some cases, surgery may be required when the disease does not actually respond to drug therapy.
These are the most common anticonvulsants in the market today:
This was considered as the major anticonvulsants before the development of the more popular drugs today. Barbiturates actually treat convulsions but the thing with this drug is that it causes major sedation and as much as anesthesia. Phenobarbital is still commonly used today but not as commonly used as other anticonvulsant drugs. These drugs usually have -barbital in their names.
Benzodiazepines usually have -zepam or -zolam in their drug names. Benzodiazepines, aside from their anticonvulsant effects also have other effects to the person such as hypnotic, anxiolytic (lessens anxiety), and even muscle relaxation.
Hydantoins are the most commonly prescribed anticonvulsants today special mention to Phenytoin. Hydantoins suppress abnormal electrical brain activities by stabilizing sodium channels in the brain. The most common drug prescribed under this classification is Dilantin.
Carboxamides are also considered as mainstream anticonvulsants used to treat seizures and epilepsies. These drugs usually end in -zepine. Carboxamides are found to be more easily tolerated and yields lesser side effects when taken in.
Because some seizure disorders such as epilepsy may remain for life, it is important to take note of the side effects of such drugs as well as the adverse effects which may happen.
Blood abnormalities such as decreased platelet count; as well as toxicity to the liver may happen so it is important to have regular blood tests as well as liver test functions. Apart from that common drug side effects like dizziness, nausea, vomiting and skin rashes may occur.
In terms of Phenytoins, the most common drug prescribed is Dilantin and this drug also has a group of common side effects like poor balance, slurred speech, nervousness as well as confusion.
Also, while on this treatment regimen, it is best to avoid alcohol consumption as it may further depress the nervous system.
Anticonvulsants, also called Antiepileptic drugs or Antiseizure drugs, are the drugs of choice for seizures as well as epilepsy. By preventing the occurence of seizures, anticonvulsant drugs prevent possible brain damage and injury which may lead to permanent disabilities.