Discusses use of anticonvulsants to control cancer pain. Includes list of generic and brand name medicines, including phenytoin (Dilantin), topiramate (Topamax), and zonisamide (Zonegran). Covers how they work and side effects.
Anticonvulsants for Cancer Pain
How It Works
cancer pain by changing the way sodium and calcium
travel across the surface of nerve cells in the brain. The nerve cells send
fewer signals, and the brain senses less pain.
Why It Is Used
Anticonvulsants help reduce pain
related to the nervous system (neuropathic pain). Some have fewer side effects
than tricyclic antidepressants.
How Well It Works
Anticonvulsants help control cancer
pain related to the nervous system (neuropathic pain).
When anticonvulsants are used to control
cancer pain, they may be given in small amounts to limit side effects. Tell
your doctor if you experience any side effects, especially:
Confusion and dizziness.
vomiting, loss of appetite, and belly pain.
Blurred vision or
uncontrollable eye movements (nystagmus).
Itching, fever, or a rash
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a
warning on anticonvulsants and the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts. The
FDA does not recommend that people stop using these medicines. Instead, people
who take anticonvulsant medicine should be watched closely for
warning signs of suicide. People who take
anticonvulsant medicine and who are worried about this side effect should talk
to a doctor.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects.
(Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Women who use any of these medicines during pregnancy have a slightly higher chance of having a baby with birth defects. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you and your doctor must weigh the risks of using one of these medicines against the risks of not treating your condition.
Drowsiness is the most common side
effect of anticonvulsant drugs.
These drugs are started at low
doses and gradually increased to achieve pain relief.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.