What should I know about anticonvulsants?

Some medications that are used to treat seizures can also help prevent migraine headaches. These include:

  • carbamazepine
  • gabapentin
  • divalproex sodium
  • tiagabine HCl
  • topiramate
  • valproic acid

These medications are usually used when other types of preventive medications, such as beta-blockers or tricyclic antidepressants, fail.


How do anticonvulsants work?

How anticonvulsants prevent migraines is not clear. It is thought that they influence levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. They may also inhibit some of the electrical impulses involved in the beginning of a migraine.

What are the possible side effects of using anticonvulsants and what should I do about them?

The side effects of anticonvulsant medications used to treat migraines are generally mild. Some rare side effects, however, can be severe.

Mild side effects include:

  • drowsiness
  • hair loss
  • nausea
  • tremor
  • weight gain

More serious side effects, such as liver problems and ovarian cysts, have occurred. You should not use any of these medications if you are pregnant or may become pregnant during treatment.

What are the possible drug interactions with anticonvulsants?

Some of these medications can interact with blood thinners such as aspirin or Coumadin (warfarin). Talk with your doctor if you are taking any of these medications. Careful monitoring may be needed. Make sure your doctor is aware of all medication you are taking, both over-the-counter and prescription, before starting any new medicines. Also make sure that he or she is aware of any herbal products or nutritional supplements you use.


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