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Topiramate for Epilepsy

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
topiramate Topamax

How It Works

It is not known exactly how topiramate prevents seizures.

Why It Is Used

Topiramate may be used alone or in combination with other antiepileptic drugs to control partial seizures in children. It may also be used alone to treat children and adults with newly diagnosed epilepsy and generalized tonic-clonic seizures.

How Well It Works

Topiramate works to control partial and generalized tonic-clonic seizures.1

It may also help control atonic seizures and seizures caused by Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.2

Side Effects

Common side effects of topiramate include:

  • Drowsiness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Lack of coordination.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Inability to concentrate or speak clearly.
  • Nervousness.

Topiramate has been linked in a small number of people to a potentially life-threatening condition called metabolic acidosis. Symptoms of metabolic acidosis include fatigue, lack of appetite, and rapid breathing (hyperventilation). If left untreated, metabolic acidosis can lead to death.

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. After you and your doctor figure out the medicine program that works best for you, make sure to follow your program exactly as prescribed.

  • Side effects. Topiramate is tolerated well by most people and has few serious side effects. But a small number of people who take the drug may develop kidney stones, decreased sweating with increased body temperature, or a type of glaucoma. Another warning links topiramate use to metabolic acidosis in some people.
  • 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. Make sure to tell your doctor about all the medicines, herbal pills, and dietary supplements you are taking. Topiramate may make birth control pills less effective. A woman taking topiramate may need to use another method of birth control to reduce her chances of becoming pregnant.
  • 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, be sure 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, topiramate may cause side effects or carry risks that are not yet fully known. Report any unexpected side effects or problems to your doctor.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. French JA, et al. (2004). Efficacy and tolerability of the new antiepileptic drugs I: Treatment of new onset epilepsy. Report of the Therapeutics and Technology Assessment Subcommittee and Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Epilepsy Society. Neurology, 62(8): 1252–1260.
  2. Drugs for epilepsy (2008). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 6(70): 37–46.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Steven C. Schachter, MD - Neurology
Last Revised August 28, 2013

Last Revised: August 28, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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