Individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder often experience seizures and manic episodes, that are typically treated by mediations belonging to the category of anticonvulsants. Depakote, available in various forms is one among the different medications presently in use for treating the above conditions. It is also used for treating migraine headaches among patients. In use for more than four decades since FDA approval in the year 1978, the medication has gained popularity due to the renewed interest in the effects of the medication in  treating various conditions. Here is a look at the anticonvulsant and side effects of Depakote, along with simple tips on handling the undesirable effects.

Overview of divalproex sodium

Depakote is the brand name for Divalproex sodium, and it has proven properties that make it a good choice for treating the above conditions. For instance, it is known to have neuroprotective properties, and anti-manic properties in addition to its effects in treating migraine. The compound, as mentioned above has received widespread interest for its anti-proliferative properties, placing it under the spotlight for studies in the field of oncology. The medication is presently available in oral forms as extended-release formulations and delayed release formulations.

Commonly reported side effects of Depakote

Side effects of Depakote include common and frequently occurring effects that may not require medical attention. These effects may resolve naturally without being a cause for concern. Other types of side effects include serious or adverse side effects that have an impact on behaviour or health. These effects require medical assistance and in certain instances, if left untreated may manifest into proportions that are serious in nature. It is therefore necessary to quickly identify the symptoms of possible serious side effects, so as to extend necessary medical assistance, wherever required.

For instance, the medication is known to trigger suicidal tendencies among users. A very small section of users are known to harbor such thoughts, and this requires additional caution by care givers. The risk of suicidal tendencies increases when the patient has certain existing conditions, such as depression or anxiety. Discernible symptoms of such conditions include an increase in anxiety levels, or depression. The patient is likely to exhibit heightened state of panic or appear restless and agitated all the time. Difficulty in falling asleep, or abnormal aggression are also symptoms that indicate possible adverse reactions. An impulsive behaviour that has not been witnessed in the past, and a sudden increase in activity levels including talking are also indications of behaviour that is consistent with manic thoughts. The individuals are also like to get easily irritated over trivial issues, apart from swings in mood. These symptoms may slowly or rapidly manifest into suicidal tendencies.

Other possible reactions include allergies that may be experienced by a section of users. Typically, the most common allergic reaction is hypersensitivity, and commonly reported symptoms of allergies include the following. Patients are likely to observe the onset of rashes on the skin, with some experiencing fever. The outbreak of blisters on the skin cannot be ruled out, while some patients end up with sores in the mouth. Swelling in the lymph nodes, the tongue, the eyes or the throat are also indications of allergies. The patient may have some trouble in breathing or swallowing food and liquid normally. These allergies require medical attention, as certain allergic reactions have the possibility of quickly manifesting into serious conditions that require emergency treatment at a healthcare facility. It is therefore necessary to seek medical assistance at the earliest.

Here is a compilation of other undesirable effects of the medication. It is necessary to understand that the compilation is not exhaustive in nature and may cover only commonly reported effects. Certain effects may not have been recorded in sufficient numbers, or may not be commonly experienced. ON a similar note, it is also necessary to know that side effects are a possibility and not mandatory in nature. In other words, certain patients may experience undesirable outcomes of the medication, while some may not experience any kind of outcomes. The nature, intensity and duration of outcomes may also differ from patient to patient.

Black box warning from regulatory authority

Drugs are classified as per the nature of warning issued by regulatory authorities. Depakote belongs to the category of drugs with black box warning from the FDA. This is effectively an alert to medical practitioners and users that the drug could trigger serious side effects in certain conditions. Depakote can cause serious damage to the liver among children below the age of two years. This can also occur among individuals with specific neurometabolic syndromes. It is important for patients to undergo liver function tests before and after the treatment, with regular periodic monitoring during the course of the treatment.

Additionally, the  drug is also known to affect the fetus, when the medication is taken by pregnant mothers. Birth defects that may be linked to the drug include effects on the limbs, the head, spinal cord, and heart, apart from orifices for urination. Pregnant women are advised to exercise caution when on the medication as the effects also extend to the IQ and thinking ability of the new born, apart from the possible emotional disorders that may manifest in the child after birth. Finally, the drug is also known to cause pancreatitis, that can also turn fatal if left untreated. This refers to the inflammation of the pancreas, that occurs in the period immediately after commencing treatment or long after the drug has been used.

Frequently occurring undesirable outcomes

Outcomes that can be considered as frequently occurring include dizziness and drowsiness. This makes it necessary for patients to exercise caution or avoid driving, or indulging in activities that require heightened alertness and control. Feelings of nausea are relatively common among users of the medication. This may or may not be accompanied by vomiting sensations. Fatigue is another manifestation that is relatively common among users. Similarly, individuals may experience blurred vision when on the medication, apart from a sudden increase in appetite that is not attributed to any other condition or activity. Surprisingly, there is also a contrary symptom, wherein individuals may also go through a rapid loss of appetite for no specific reason. Other symptoms include possible loss of weight or increase in weight that is linked to the above loss or increase in appetite. Difficulty in controlling routine actions such as walking or coordinating may be experienced by a small section of users.

Undesirable outcomes that require elevated levels of caution

In addition to the above-mentioned undesirable outcomes that are relatively mild/moderate in nature, there are other possible outcomes that are considered as serious or adverse in nature. These effects may require medical attention, especially if it is persistent or if there is increase intensity in the condition.  For instance, patients who experience any kind of bleeding related issues are to seek medical assistance at the earliest. Symptoms that are consistent with bleeding complications include the appearance of spots on the skin, either purple or reddish in color. Patients are more likely to bruise themselves, while some may experience increased bleeding from the mouth or the nose. Patients may also sometimes end up with high levels of ammonia in the blood. Commonly associated symptoms of this condition include increased fatigue among patients, while some are known to experience vomiting sensations and confusion, without any particular reason.

Patients on the medication are also at risk of ending up with hypothermia. The condition refers to the lowering of the body temperature, below normal levels. The possible outcomes and symptoms of this condition include confusion in the individuals, and a rapid dip in body temperature. The patient is at risk of slipping into a coma, while some are known to end up with increased levels of fatigue. The vitals of the patient may also be abnormal; for instance, the pulse may be weak, the breathing may be shallow and slower.

Other reactions to the medication

In addition to the above undesirable outcomes, there is also the possibility of the patient experiencing allergic reactions to the medication, as mentioned earlier. This could impact multiple organs at the same time. Unknown to patients, hypersensitivity could result in swelling in the areas around different organs – the liver, the heart, kidneys and muscles may swell and this may also be accompanied by pain. Damage to the liver has certain tell-tale symptoms and it is necessary constantly monitor the individual for the onset of such symptoms. For instance, the individual may experience abnormal tiredness or fatigue, which is not attributed to any physical activity. A distinct swelling in the face is also another possible indication of liver problems.

Possible drug interactions of  Depakote

Apart from the undesirable outcomes of the medication, there is also the possibility of drug interactions with other medications. This includes natural supplements and herbal remedies that are commonly used by individuals, apart from prescription medication and OTC formulations. The interaction could be reduced efficacy in either of the medications or stronger effects in the medications when both have similar mechanism of actions. Individuals on certain anesthetic drugs are typically prescribed lower doses of anesthetic drugs as Depakote is known to cause an increase it eh amounts of the anesthetic drugs.

Depakote taken along with other anti-seizure drugs may result in an increase in the levels of Depakote. Specialists typically decrease the dosage of Depakote in such instances to ensure that the levels are regulated to meet requirements. Similarly, when the medication is taken alongside drugs for migraine, it may result in increased ammonia levels, that may in turn trigger hypothermia. It is necessary to be monitored in such instances, to ensure that the condition does not aggravate or result in adverse effects.

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