Medication Side Effects

About two-thirds of people have their seizures fully controlled using medication. There are a lot of medications for epilepsy. Most of them are designed to control one type of seizure. Nearly all of them come with side effects: some pretty common, some very rare. It’s important to be aware of these when you’re put on a new medication.

I can’t emphasize enough here the importance of talking to your pharmacist about your medications. Doctors are in the business of treating you, and they pick the drugs they feel are going to do that best. But they may not be thinking about what else the drugs can do to your body – the side effects. Pharmacists are in the business of thinking about how drugs work and what they do. It’s really important to talk to them about any medications, especially new medications, you’re taking.

A line drawing of a pharmacist with drug preparation paraphernalia.
Hopefully, your pharmacist has a face.

Since epileptic seizures are caused by overactivity in the brain, many anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) are designed to slow down the brain’s activity slightly. As a result, side effects of AEDs often include drowsiness and difficulty in focusing or understanding (cognitive slowing).

Especially at relatively high dosages, many AEDs can interfere with your vision or movement. Dizziness, difficulty walking or balancing, and blurred vision can occur.

There are lots of other side effects, depending on different medications. Several are known for speeding up the breakdown of vitamin D. With these medications, you may have to take calcium and vitamin D supplements to prevent bone loss. Some medications can cause insomnia or depression. Some can even cause seizures if taken wrongly. (!!!)

Again, check with both your doctor and your pharmacist about all the medications you take. They’ll be able to tell you what side effects your medications have and how common they are.