who have absence seizures or myoclonic seizures probably should not use
carbamazepine. It does not prevent these types of seizures and can even make
How Well It Works
Carbamazepine is effective in preventing partial seizures and generalized tonic-clonic seizures.1
Common side effects of carbamazepine
vision and blurry vision.
Your doctor may prescribe smaller but more frequent doses of carbamazepine to help
reduce its side effects. High doses of carbamazepine can affect a person's
thinking and state of mind, but this can often be avoided.
In rare cases, carbamazepine may cause a serious skin rash. Contact your doctor if you develop a rash while taking
Using carbamazepine for a long time can increase your risk for osteoporosis and broken bones.
FDA Advisory. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has
issued an advisory on antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) and the risk of suicide. Talk
to your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide in adults and in children and teens.
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.
Regular blood tests help monitor the amount of medicine in your blood—it is
important to maintain a consistent level. After you and your doctor figure out
the medicine program that works best for you, make sure to follow
your program exactly as prescribed.
Adverse effects. Some of carbamazepine's long-term
effects may not yet be fully known. People tend to tolerate the drug quite
well, and it has fewer side effects than phenobarbital, another drug used to
treat the same types of seizures.
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. Carbamazepine may reduce the effectiveness of birth
control pills. A woman taking carbamazepine may need to use a method of birth control other than birth control pills to
reduce her chances of becoming pregnant.
Serious health risks. Carbamazepine
can cause serious, but uncommon, side effects such as liver problems,
bone marrow problems (low blood counts), and skin
rash. Regular blood tests can lower the risk by identifying
problems early on.
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, it is important
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, carbamazepine may
produce side effects or carry risks that are not yet fully known. Report any
unexpected side effects or problems to your doctor.
Drugs for epilepsy (2008). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 6(70): 37–46.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.