What is carbamazepine?
Carbamazepine is an anticonvulsant. It works by decreasing nerve impulses that cause seizures and nerve pain, such as trigeminal neuralgia and diabetic neuropathy.
Carbamazepine is also used to treat bipolar disorder.
Carbamazepine may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.
You should not take carbamazepine if you have a history of bone marrow suppression, if you are allergic to it, or take an antidepressant such as amitriptyline, desipramine, doxepin, imipramine, or nortriptyline.
TELL YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT ALL OTHER MEDICINES YOU USE. Some drugs can raise or lower your blood levels of carbamazepine, which may cause side effects or make this medicine less effective. Carbamazepine can also affect blood levels of certain other drugs, making them less effective or increasing side effects.
Carbamazepine may cause serious blood problems or a life-threatening skin rash or allergic reaction. Call your doctor if you have a fever, unusual weakness, bleeding, bruising, or a skin rash that causes blistering and peeling.
Some people have thoughts about suicide while taking seizure medicine. Stay alert to changes in your mood or symptoms. Report any new or worsening symptoms to your doctor.
Do not stop taking this medicine without asking your doctor first, even if you feel fine.
If you are pregnant, do not start or stop taking carbamazepine without your doctor’s advice.
Before taking this medicine
You should not take carbamazepine if you have a history of bone marrow suppression, or if you are allergic to carbamazepine or to an antidepressant such as amitriptyline, desipramine, doxepin, imipramine, or nortriptyline.
Do not use carbamazepine if you have taken an MAO inhibitor in the past 14 days. A dangerous drug interaction could occur. MAO inhibitors include furazolidone, isocarboxazid, linezolid, phenelzine, rasagiline, selegiline, and tranylcypromine.
Carbamazepine may cause severe or life-threatening skin rash, and especially in people of Asian ancestry. Your doctor may recommend a blood test before you start the medication to determine your risk.
Tell your doctor if you have ever had:
- heart problems;
- liver or kidney disease;
- low sodium levels;
- depression, mood disorder; or
- suicidal thoughts or actions.
You may have thoughts about suicide while taking carbamazepine. Your doctor should check your progress at regular visits. Your family or other caregivers should also be alert to changes in your mood or symptoms.
Do not start or stop taking seizure medication during pregnancy without your doctor’s advice. Carbamazepine may harm an unborn baby, but having a seizure during pregnancy could harm both mother and baby. The benefit of preventing seizures may outweigh any risks to the baby.
Tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant.
If you are pregnant, your name may be listed on a pregnancy registry to track the effects of this medicine on the baby.
You should not breastfeed while you are using carbamazepine.
How should I take carbamazepine?
Take carbamazepine exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Follow all directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides or instruction sheets. Your doctor may occasionally change your dose.
Take with food.
Swallow the extended-release tablet or capsule whole and do not crush, chew, or break it. Tell your doctor if you cannot swallow a pill whole.
The chewable tablet must be chewed before you swallow it.
Shake the oral suspension (liquid) before you measure a dose. Use the dosing syringe provided, or use a medicine dose-measuring device (not a kitchen spoon).
It may take up to 4 weeks before your symptoms improve. Keep using the medication as directed and call your doctor promptly if this medicine seems to stop working as well in preventing your seizures.
You will need frequent medical tests.
Store at room temperature away from moisture, heat, and light.
Do not stop using carbamazepine suddenly, even if you feel fine. Stopping suddenly may cause increased seizures. Follow your doctor’s instructions about tapering your dose.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Take the medicine as soon as you can, but skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next dose. Do not take two doses at one time.
What happens if I overdose?
Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.
Overdose symptoms may include severe drowsiness, weak or shallow breathing, and loss of consciousness.
What to avoid
Drinking alcohol with this medicine can cause side effects, and can also increase your risk of seizures.
Grapefruit may interact with carbamazepine and lead to unwanted side effects. Avoid the use of grapefruit products.
Avoid driving or hazardous activity until you know how this medicine will affect you. Your reactions could be impaired.
Carbamazepine could make you sunburn more easily. Avoid sunlight or tanning beds. Wear protective clothing and use sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) when you are outdoors.
Carbamazepine side effects
Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction to carbamazepine (hives, difficult breathing, swelling in your face or throat) or a severe skin reaction (fever, sore throat, burning in your eyes, skin pain, red or purple skin rash that spreads and causes blistering and peeling).
Seek medical treatment if you have a serious drug reaction that can affect many parts of your body. Symptoms may include: skin rash, fever, swollen glands, muscle aches, severe weakness, unusual bruising, or yellowing of your skin or eyes.
Report any new or worsening symptoms to your doctor, such as: sudden mood or behavior changes, depression, anxiety, insomnia, or if you feel agitated, hostile, restless, irritable, or have thoughts about suicide or hurting yourself.
Call your doctor at once if you have:
- a skin rash, no matter how mild;
- loss of appetite, right-sided upper stomach pain, dark urine;
- slow, fast, or pounding heartbeats;
- anemia or other blood problems – fever, chills, sore throat, mouth sores, bleeding gums, nosebleeds, pale skin, easy bruising, unusual tiredness, feeling light-headed or short of breath; or
- low levels of sodium in the body – headache, confusion, severe weakness, feeling unsteady, increased seizures.
Common carbamazepine side effects may include:
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.Carbamazepine side effects (more detail)
What other drugs will affect carbamazepine?
Sometimes it is not safe to use certain medications at the same time. Some drugs can affect your blood levels of other drugs you take, which may increase side effects or make the medications less effective.
Using carbamazepine with other drugs that make you drowsy can worsen this effect. Ask your doctor before using opioid medication, a sleeping pill, a muscle relaxer, or medicine for anxiety, depression, or seizures.
Many drugs can interact with carbamazepine, and some drugs should not be used together. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed in this medication guide. Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any medicine you start or stop using.