Carbamazepine is an anti-convulsant drug that is used in the treatment of some types of seizures, including epilepsy. The medication is also used to treat the pain caused by tic douloureux (trigeminal neuralgia), and can be used to treat manic-depressive illnesses such as bipolar disorder.
Carbamazepine works on the brain to effectively reduce the spread of seizure activity and restore the normal balance of nerve activity within the patient’s body.
In the US, carbamazepine is sold under the following brand names:
This medication is only available with a prescription from your doctor or treating specialist and comes as a suspension, tablet or capsule for oral dosage.
Although carbamazepine undoubtedly brings many benefits, some people taking this drug do suffer a few unpleasant side-effects. You may not suffer any side-effects during the course of your treatment with this drug. However, if you do notice any unusual effects, you should mention them to your doctor. If your condition seems to be getting worse or fails to show signs of improvement after you begin taking the medication, you should consult your treating physician.
There are a couple of side-effects that are quite commonly experienced by people when they first begin taking this drug, which should be brought to your doctor’s attention. These effects can include blurred or double vision, and continual back-and-forth eye movements.
There are some side-effects that affect patients who are taking carbamazepine that do not need any further medical attention. These effects usually resolve themselves as your body becomes used to the medication. However, if the effects are particularly persistent or worrisome, ask your treating physician for more advice on how to prevent or reduce them. These side-effects include the following:
This list of side-effects is not necessarily all-inclusive. If you begin to experience any other unexpected effects, you should consult your doctor or specialist immediately.
You will be issued a Medication Guide when you receive your supply of carbamazepine from your pharmacist. Make sure that you read the Guide before you start using your new medication so that you understand how to take it. If you have any queries, check with your doctor or pharmacist.
Always take this medication exactly as you are ordered to by your doctor. Do not take more than the dose you have been prescribed or take the medicine more frequently than directed. Do not carry on taking the drug for a longer period than you are instructed to by your doctor. Do not miss any doses of your medication. Omitting doses could make some side-effects more likely and it may also mean that the drug will not work as effectively.
The dose of carbamazepine that patients are prescribed will vary. Always adhere precisely to your doctor’s instructions or follow the directions on the product label. The dose outlined in this guide is based solely on the average for this medication. If the dose you have been told to take is different, and you must not change it unless you are told to do so by your doctor. The dose and frequency of carbamazepine that you are prescribed will depend on the strength of the tablets and the condition for which you are being treated. The length of your course of medication may sometimes be altered by your doctor, depending on how your body responds to the drug.
Your course of treatment with carbamazepine will not cure your condition, but it will help to control and manage it.
You should take carbamazepine with food to reduce the chance that you will experience nausea and vomiting. However, this side-effect is less likely with the extended-release capsule form of this medication. If preferred, the contents of the capsule can be sprinkled over food if you prefer to take the medication in this way. Do not crush or chew the capsule.
If you are prescribed the extended-release tablet form of carbamazepine, you must swallow them in one piece; do not chew or crush them. If your tablets have been damaged or cracked, do not take them; ask your doctor for a fresh prescription.
Your doctor will only prescribe carbamazepine for particular kinds of pain. Do not use this medication for general pain relief.
If you have been prescribed Tegretol® oral suspension, always shake the bottle well before measuring out each dose. Use a marked measuring spoon, medicine cup, or oral syringe to measure your dose of medicine, rather than a household teaspoon that might not be accurate. Do not take any other liquid medication at the same time your dose of Tegretol® oral suspension, unless you are instructed to do so by your doctor.
Tegretol® tablets work differently to the oral suspension form of the drug, even if the dose is the same. Do not swap from one to the other, without first consulting your doctor.
You can usually take Tegretol® in isolation or in conjunction with other seizure medicines. However, you should check with your doctor before doing so.
You must not take Equetro® capsules if you are also taking Tegretol® tablets or suspension, because both these medicines contain carbamazepine.
If you have any queries regarding your prescribed medication, always ask your doctor for clarification.
If a dose of carbamazepine is omitted, you should try to take it as soon as you can. However, if your next dose is imminent, you should skip the one you missed and revert to your usual dosing schedule. Never take the double the dose in an attempt to catch up.
In the event of an accidental overdose, call 911 and summon emergency help immediately. Do not wait for a doctor’s appointment to become available.
It is not recommended to use some types of drugs at the same time. To do so may affect how your medication works and could also greatly increase the risk of serious side-effects. However, in some cases, your doctor may prescribe you a number of different medications concurrently, even though an interaction may occur. To avoid adverse reactions, your doctor may change the dose of one or more of your drugs. Alternatively, there may be some ways in which you can prevent or manage the effect of any interactions, and your doctor will advise you further on this.
Before starting treatment with your new medication, make a list of all the medicines that you currently use. This list should include all prescription and non-prescription drugs, herbal preparations, and vitamin supplements that you take on a regular basis. Show the list to your doctor before you begin your treatment. Do not change the dose or frequency of any of your prescribed or other non-prescription medications unless your doctor tells you to.
Although using carbamazepine with the following medications is not usually recommended and may present an increased risk of side-effects, it may be necessary for some patients. Your doctor or specialist will tell you if it is necessary to alter the frequency or dose of any of your medicines:
You should not take carbamazepine with a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) or for the first 14 days following cessation of use of an MAOI). MSOIs are used in the treatment of depression. As such, you should avoid the use of the following medications:
This medication should not be used with certain drugs that are used in the treatment of HIV and AIDS, including:
Some foodstuffs, alcohol, or tobacco ought not to be used with certain drugs, because they may cause an interaction. Discuss with your doctor if you have a preference for certain types of food, or if you routinely use alcohol or tobacco. Note that you should not drink black tea or grapefruit juice while you are taking this medication.
Please note that this list is not necessarily all-inclusive. Remember to tell your doctor if you are already taking any other medications before you begin your course of treatment with carbamazepine.
Eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice can increase the risk of the side-effects that are caused by carbamazepine by increasing the amount of the drug in your body. Do not eat this fruit during the course of your treatment with this medication.
Carbamazepine can cause increased sensitivity in older patients to the side-effects it causes. In particular, elderly patients may suffer from confusion, irregular heartbeat, and unsteadiness, all of which can greatly increase the risk of falling. Older people can sometimes be at a higher risk of developing a form of mineral imbalance, specifically low blood sodium levels. The risk of this complication is exacerbated by the use of diuretics (‘water pills’).
The presence of some medical conditions can adversely affect the use of this medication and in the following cases, can actually make the condition worse. Tell your doctor if you have any existing health problems or a history of them, particularly:
If you are of Asian heritage, your doctor may ask you to have special tests carried out, as this medication can increase the risk of serious skin reactions.
Carbamazepine should not be used in patients who have bone marrow depression.
Tegretol® suspension contains sorbitol, and should therefore not be given to patients suffering from fructose intolerance.
This medication can harm your unborn baby. If you are pregnant or think that you have become pregnant during your course of treatment with carbamazepine, tell your doctor immediately. While you are taking this drug, you are advised to use a form of birth control that is reliable and effective in order to avoid becoming pregnant. If you are already pregnant, talk to your midwife or doctor about having additional birth defect tests as part of your prenatal care.
You should be aware that carbamazepine can mean that birth control pills that contain estrogen may not work effectively, potentially resulting in an unwanted pregnancy. Similarly, birth control patches, injections and implants may also not be as effective. For this reason, you should take your doctor’s advice on using alternative methods of contraception for the duration of your course of treatment. Condoms used in conjunction with spermicide are usually the recommended form of contraception for patients who are taking carbamazepine.
Although it is not clear whether this medication poses a risk to breastfeeding infants, it does pass into breast milk. You should therefore weigh up the risks versus the benefits of breastfeeding while you are taking this drug. Ask your midwife or doctor for advice on alternative feeding strategies for your child until you have completed your course of treatment. Remember that expressed breast milk will also contain traces of carbamazepine and is therefore not suitable for storage for future use.
Carbamazepine can make some people feel agitated, irritable, or can cause other abnormal behavior. Some patients may also experience suicidal tendencies, or find that feelings of depression are heightened. If you notice any of these unwanted effects, you should contact your doctor immediately.
This medication can cause serious blood problems in some patients. Tell your doctor immediately if you develop any of the following symptoms:
This medication can cause serious skin reactions in some patients. Tell your doctor immediately if you develop any of the following symptoms:
This medication can cause serious allergic reactions that may affect multiple organs in the body in some patients. Tell your doctor immediately if you develop any of the following symptoms:
Carbamazepine can cause drowsiness in some patients. You should avoid taking medication containing CND depressants, including:
In some people, this medication can cause them to become less alert than usual. It can also cause dizziness or fainting. If you are affected in this way, do not drive, use machinery, or take part in any activity that could be dangerous.
You may also notice that your skin is more sensitive to sunlight than usual while you are taking this medication. Exposure to strong sunlight, even for a short period of time, can cause a serious skin rash, redness, itchiness, or skin discoloration. Make sure that you take adequate care to protect yourself when going outside by using a good quality sunscreen product, wearing long sleeves, trousers, and a hat.
If you begin to suffer from blurred vision, experience difficulty in reading, or notice any other changes in your eyesight when you begin taking this medication, your doctor may refer you to an ophthalmologist to have your eyes checked.
You should be aware that this medication can affect the results of some medical tests. Be sure to tell the doctor or nurse in charge of any tests that you are having that you are taking carbamazepine. Note that the results of some pregnancy tests can be skewed by this medication and may not be accurate.
You must not stop taking carbamazepine abruptly unless you are expressly instructed to do so by your doctor. Your doctor may decide to gradually reduce the amount of your prescribed dose, before telling you to stop taking the drug altogether. If you stop taking your medication completely, your seizures could get worse and you may begin to suffer from serious withdrawal symptoms.
During the course of your treatment with carbamazepine, you will be asked to attend regular check-up appointments with your doctor or specialist. These progress checks are very important, as they allow your doctor to check that the course of treatment you have been prescribed is working correctly. The meetings also give you the opportunity to bring your doctor’s attention to any unwanted side-effects that you may be suffering and to ask any questions that you may have about your new drug regimen. During your course of treatment, your doctor may want to carry out blood tests. These tests are necessary to check for any unwanted effects that the drug may be causing and to make sure that your condition is reacting to the treatment as desired.
Before beginning your course of treatment, be sure to tell your doctor about any known allergies that you have to food colorings, certain foodstuffs, preservatives, or animal derivatives.
Keep your supply of carbamazepine in a sealed, airtight container. This drug must be kept at room temperature. Do not freeze or refrigerate the medication. Keep the medication dry and do not place the packet in direct sunlight or where it could be affected by sources of extreme heat, such as radiators or fires. Keep the bottle of suspension upright to avoid leakage.
Always keep your supply of carbamazepine where it cannot be reached by children or pets. If a pet does consume your medicine, you should seek immediate veterinary advice.
Do not keep any unused carbamazepine solution tablets. Do not use any medicines that have gone past their use-by date. Do not flush any of your unwanted medicines down the toilet or throw them into the drains. Do not discard unused medication with your trash; tablets can easily be mistaken for candy and consumed by children.
Carbamazepine is an anticonvulsant drug that is used in the treatment of certain types of seizures, including epilepsy. This drug is also used in the treatment of the pain caused by tic douloureux (trigeminal neuralgia). It can also be used to treat manic-depressive illnesses such as bipolar disorder.
Carbamazepine works on the brain, effectively reducing the spread of seizure activity within the body and restoring the normal balance of nerve activity within the patient.
There are a considerable number of prescription-only and over-the-counter drugs, including standard cough and cold remedies, and sleeping preparations, which can interact adversely with this medication. There are also quite a number of existing medical conditions that can be made worse by using carbamazepine. It is therefore very important that patients openly and frankly talk about their full medical history with their doctor or specialist, before starting treatment with this medication.
It is not advisable to become pregnant while you are taking this medication. Carbamazepine can also adversely affect estrogen-based contraceptive drugs, leading to a risk of unwanted pregnancy. The results of pregnancy tests can also be affected by this medication, and there is a risk that you could be pregnant without realizing it, presenting a danger to your unborn child. If you were planning on becoming pregnant, you should discuss this with your doctor before you begin taking carbamazepine.
Carbamazepine is extremely effective in relieving the symptoms of seizures and pain caused by certain conditions. In order to get the most benefit from using this medication, you must keep regular check-up appointments with your doctor or specialist. These appointments are essential in order for your doctor to establish the best dose and dosage schedule for this medication. You will also be required to attend regular check-ups and have blood and urine tests during the course of your treatment in order to make sure that the drug is working correctly and to ensure that no unwanted or harmful side-effects are evident.