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Seizure Medicines for Tension Headaches

Topic Overview

Seizure medicines are drugs that are used to treat seizures. Seizure medicines are also used to prevent migraine headaches. And they may be used to help prevent tension headaches in some people. There is not good evidence for their use in preventing tension headaches, but your doctor may think that one of these medicines will help you if you have chronic tension headaches:

  • Gabapentin (for example, Neurontin)
  • Topiramate (Topamax)
  • Valproate (for example, Depakene)

Side effects of topiramate can include:

  • Fatigue.
  • A prickling or tingling sensation in the hands and feet.
  • Lack of coordination.
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss.
  • Inability to concentrate or speak clearly.

Gabapentin is a well-tolerated drug that usually causes only mild side effects. These often go away within 1 to 2 weeks and include:

  • Dizziness.
  • Drowsiness and fatigue.
  • Headache.
  • Weight gain.
  • Foot swelling.

Side effects of valproate can include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Nausea.
  • Tremor or shakiness.
  • Hair loss.
  • Weight gain.
  • Headache pain that is different than pain from a migraine headache.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning on seizure medicines and the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts. The FDA does not recommend that people stop using these medicines. Instead, people who take seizure medicine should be watched closely for warning signs of suicide. People who take seizure medicine and who are worried about this side effect should talk to a doctor.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Colin Chalk, MD, CM, FRCPC - Neurology
Last Revised July 7, 2011

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