Many people in the United States suffer from epilepsy and other disorders that can cause seizures and this affects every aspect of their lives. From not having the legal ability to drive a car to the simple fact that a seizure can often happen without warning, those who suffer from these crippling disorders depend on a variety of medications to keep their seizures under control.
Physicians who specialize in or are familiar with the nature of seizures and their causes treat their patients with the best medications available that are right for them. As is the norm, new medications arrive to the consumer market all the time and some of these new drugs may find their way into a seizure sufferer’s hands.
Again, most of these drugs work well and allow seizure patients to lead healthy and more normal lives. However, as with most drugs, side effects are always a risk and some of the risks associated with anti-seizure medications can be very serious.
If you’re taking an anti-seizure medication these are a few things you should know about their side effects and learn more about how to talk to your doctor about any concerns you have.
Types of Seizures
Regardless of the underlying cause seizures are classified by type. These types vary due the patient’s condition, age, and even menstrual cycle. These are some of the types of seizures that healthcare experts have classified.
- Absence seizures. These are generally mild and consist of short periods of “spacing out.” These were previously called petit mal seizures.
- Atonic seizures. These are brief seizures that result in a loss of muscle tension. They rarely last longer than 15 seconds.
- Catamenial seizures. These seizures occur at varying times during a woman’s menstrual cycle and are generally hormone related.
- Dravet Syndrome. This syndrome begins in the first year of an infant’s life and the seizures increase in frequency as the child ages.
- Focal seizure. These seizures are among the most unpredictable as the seizure can begin in any part of the brain resulting in differing levels of seizure activity.
- Myoclonic seizures. These seizures involve brief shaking or jerking of the muscles. The patient is generally conscious during this type of seizure.
- Tonic Clonic seizure. Previously called a grand mal seizure, a tonic clonic seizure involves the shaking or jerking of the entire body and the patient loses consciousness. These seizures can last from one to three minutes. Anything longer than five minutes is a medical emergency.
Seizure Medications and Their Side Effects
Physicians prescribe a number of different medications for seizure related disorders and one of the more popular of these medications is Dilantin (phenytoin). Dilantin works by decreasing certain activities in the brain that can result in seizures.
However, as with any drug, dilantin comes with side effects and some of them have been severe. Dilantin’s interactions with other medications can also cause life-threatening side effects. Be very clear with your doctor about any medications you are taking if you are prescribed Dilantin.
One of the most serious concerns about Dilantin is during pregnancy. It’s a conflicting issue because discontinuing the use of the drug while pregnant can cause seizures that can be very harmful for the mother and unborn child. On the other hand, Dilantin has been known to cause some serious birth defects ranging from cleft palate to heart defects. It’s vital that you discuss this with your doctor if you are pregnant and taking Dilantin. If taking Dilantin has affected your pregnancy or baby, you may have recourse against the pharmaceutical company.
Dilantin also decreases the effectiveness of hormone-based birth control which can result in irregular periods, spotting, bleeding, and pregnancy. Talk with your doctor about alternative methods of birth control if you take Dilantin.
People with low vitamin D levels or who have osteoporosis should also take Dilantin with caution. The drug is known to contribute to bone loss and this could become more severe if thinning of the bones is already a health concern.
Dilantin has also been associated with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and Purple Glove Syndrome, both of which are skin disorders that can be fatal and need immediate medical attention if they happen.
Dilantin has been a lifesaver for many people who suffer from seizures but it has also caused many people lasting problems due to the side effects. Be sure to talk with your doctor about any side effects that you experience and if those side effects have impacted your life in a severe way you might also want to speak with an attorney. After all, you can’t be too careful when it comes to your health.
Authored by Thomas J. Henry, a renowned trial attorney who has been practicing personal injury law in Texas for more than 25 years. He has represented victims of catastrophic trucking and auto accidents, on-the-job accidents, medical malpractice claims, and many other claims across the United States.