Topiramate, the generic name for Topamax, is a prescription medication known best for its effects on migraine headaches. Though it is more known for its use with migraines, Topamax is also used to treat monotherapy and adjunctive therapy epilepsy and seizures.
Seizures often result from abnormal activities of nerve cells in the brain. Brain chemicals, also known as neurotransmitters, are important in the communication between these nerve cells. The action of topiramate is believed to affect or alter the production of brain chemicals, thus, seizure in patients are prevented or suppressed.
Topamax works before a migraine happens, rather than taking the medication after the first signs of a headache. Used as a preventative measure, Topamax works by keeping the chemicals under control that excite your nervous system. One of the believed causes of migraines are nerve cells that get overexcited, causing severe pain. Topamax works to keep those cells under control. With seizures, this medication works by not allowing the nerve cells to get so excited as to cause a seizure.
Doctors often start patients on lower dosages, and then increase the dosage gradually until an effective dosage is determined. In children from two to 16 years old, it is usually given in combination with other drugs. Patients are often instructed to maintain regular fluid intake of six to eight glasses daily to prevent the development of kidney stones while taking topiramate. Some patients who are also taking other drugs, like sedatives, antidepressants, and oral contraceptives, are often monitored for side effects due to drug interactions.
Common side effects of topiramate that may be observed include weight loss, dizziness, frequent tiredness, and numbness of the extremities. Some patients may experience memory impairment, vision changes, speech problems and coordination difficulty. Other patients also present with tongue swelling, increased salivation, dryness of the mouth, and taste changes. Many patients taking anti-epileptic drugs have increased tendency to develop suicidal thoughts, thus, they should be monitored frequently and observed for behavioral changes.
1 in 50 people who take Topamax develop kidney stones. Rashes are common side effects of Topamax. See your doctor if a rash occurs to be sure it is not a sign of a more serious side effect. Children taking Topamax for seizures may have problems with sweating. Children taking this medication should be carefully observed when outdoors in warmer weather so they do not overheat.