More than 3 million individuals in the US suffer from epilepsy, accounting for a little above 1% of the total population. Similarly, around 10% of the total US population is estimated to have restless leg syndrome. Additionally, around million adults also suffer from nerve pain. The three conditions are typically treated with anticonvulsant medication known to be effective in controlling the symptoms. Without exception, all medications have undesirable side effects that is mainly attributed to the mechanism of action. Some side effects do not require medical attention and resolve naturally, while others require some kind of medication attention. Here is a look at the side effects of Neurontin and the ideal methods of managing the effects.
Drug overview and side effects of Neurontin
Before we take a look at the side effects of Neurontin here is an overview of the drug. Neurontin is prescribed for treating postherpetic neuralgia, peripheral neuropathic pain, diabetic neuropathy – either as adjunctive therapy or monotherapy. The anticonvulsant works by preventing the release of neurotransmitters that are known to be excitatory in nature. This makes it suitable for treating pathologic neurotransmission including seizures and neuropathic pain. It is best known for its wide therapeutic index, making it a safe option for patients. The medication is used for certain types of seizures and is not recommended for use in treating absence seizures or mixed seizures.
Mechanism of action and side effects of Neurontin
While the exact mechanism of action of the medication remains unclear, there are indicators of how the medication probably works. For instance, it is believed that the medication prevents the action of specific subunits, which in turn inhibit the release of neurotransmitters that are excitatory in nature. This prevention of the release of neurotransmitters is known to be responsible for the anti-epileptic and anticonvulsant property of the drug. While there are suggestions and evidence that the drug also works on adenosine receptors, there is lack of clarity about actual action of the medication at the site.
The right dosage to prevent side effects of Neurontin
It is essential to ensure that the medication is given in the right dosage to prevent side effects of Neurontin. For instance, it is necessary to check the brand of the formulation, as different brands are likely to have different standard dosages. Next, it is important to check the effect of the product when brands are changed. For instance, the effect of different products with the same dosage may actually differ, and it is necessary to understand this change. As the product has an impact on renal function, it is also important to determine the condition of the kidney of the patient. Additionally, the weight, the age and the overall health of the individual also needs to be considered when prescribing the medication. Other factors that govern the dosage include the dosing pattern – the number of doses, the gap between doses and the total period that the individual is expected to be on the medication. In certain instances, it may be necessary to take the medication with food, but it is not necessary to take all forms of the drug with food.
Certain brands of the drug are intended to be taken specifically only during the night or the evenings. Depending on the dosage, it may be necessary for the tablets to be split into two. It is essential to use a proper pill cutter for splitting the tablet and to ensure that the split unused half is store properly and taken as the next dose. Extended-release formulations of the tablets are not intended to be chewed, but are to be taken in full. Under no circumstances should the medication be taken in doses beyond the prescribed dosages. Similarly, it is important to ensure that the period of treatment is only as per the advice of the specialist. Individuals who feel that the treatment needs to be extended are to seek medical advice.
Commonly reported side effects of Neurontin
Here is a look at the commonly reported side effects of Neurontin. Feelings of dizziness were reported by almost one tenth of participants in a study on the side effects of Neurontin. Similarly, individuals have also reported feeling sleepy as a result of the medication. Other side effects observed in patients include water retention and difficulty in walking. For instance, patients have experienced a swelling in the arms, in the feet and the legs as a result of the medication.
While the above side effects of Neurontin are common, the effects are not serious or adverse in nature. Other side effects are known to manifest, that could be adverse or serious in nature. Commonly reported serious effects include a sudden pain in the back or the chest as a result of taking the medication. Patients are known to experience constipation when taking the medication for a long period. Similarly, diarrhea and vomiting are also reported among patients on the medication. Some individuals are also known to have an upset stomach as a result of treatment regimens that include long term use of the drug. Certain side effects are known to have long term effects, such as weight gain and an increase in appetite. The possibility of having blurred vision exists, and patients are also likely to experience some swings in mood. Individuals may experience increased bruising when on the medication, apart from cough and unusual tiredness.
Other possible side effects of Neurontin include fever, dry mouth, a hoarse voice, sudden loss of memory and symptoms that are similar to that of flu and cold. Difficulty in breathing is another possibility while patients are also known to report problems while urinating. Finally, a small section of patients have also reported an abnormal eye-rolling condition that is often hard to manage or control.
Side effects of Neurontin on children
The side effects of Neurontin on children include certain adverse reactions that are not frequent in nature. This includes a change in mood for unexplained reasons, or anxiety/depression not attributed to any known condition. Children are known to have behavioral issues, that are attributed to the effects of long-term medication. Similarly, there could be a change in the performance of the children in academics or other activities in school. Apart from lowered levels of concentration and focus, the medication is also known to cause children to turn hyperactive. It is therefore necessary for parents to speak to specialist prior to putting their children on the medication. Side effects that are severe in nature are to be reported to the treating specialist so as to receive adequate medical care and attention to mitigate the effects.
Serious side effects of Neurontin that require urgent intervention
Certain side effects of Neurontin require urgent intervention in a healthcare facility. These include severe allergic reactions or difficulties that are life threatening in nature. For instance, patients may experience difficulty while breathing and this mandates the need for medical intervention. Similarly, individuals who experience very severe dizziness need to seek medical care, as this could impact normal routines, especially if the individual is employed in roles that involve heavy machinery. Fever that cannot be controlled by medication is another cause for concern and needs the attention pf specialists. Patients with severe allergic reactions, hives, and rashes are also advised to seek medical treatment at the earliest to prevent the condition from manifesting into more serious issues.
Certain patients are also known to experience weakness that is severe in nature, apart from a discoloration of the skin and eyes similar to that of jaundice. Patients with these conditions are expected to undergo necessary tests and treatment to manage the condition. Similarly, inflammation or swelling of the face and the throat, lips and tongue also need urgent medical care and attention.
Patients with pre-existing conditions are advised to inform the doctors about the conditions. Similarly, women who are either planning a pregnancy or who are breastfeeding, need to consult the treating specialist. Individuals with breathing problems, diabetics, impaired renal function, liver ailments and patients undergoing dialysis need to inform the treating specialists of the conditions. This will help prevent or mitigate side effects of Neurontin.
Toxicity and how to manage overdose
While the drug has a wide therapeutic index making it safe for use, it has a threshold beyond which it could result in adverse reactions. When the dosage exceeds the permissible limits, the effects of the overdose are similar to that of adverse reactions/ side effects of Neurontin. Some of these effects include CNS depression, and gastrointestinal symptoms. CNS depression includes dizzy feelings, abnormal loss of consciousness, a lazy and lethargic attitude, drowsy feelings and slurred speech, while gastrointestinal symptoms include diarrhea. The management of overdose is typically symptomatic in nature and care is generally supportive in nature to reduce the effects of the overdose. In the event of toxic overdose, it is possible to remove the excessive amounts of the drug by hemodialysis. This procedure can effectively turn out to offer additional benefits to patients with renal ailments. Treatment of overdose is expected to take into consideration the possibility of overdose that involves other medications or opioids. Known medically as multi-drug overdose, the treatment of such conditions requires extra care and caution as the consequences of such conditions can result in coma or fatalities.