Anti-seizure Medications: Relief From Nerve Pain

Anti-seizure drugs often are used to help control the type of pain caused by damaged nerves.

Anti-seizure medications (anticonvulsants) were originally designed to treat people with epilepsy. Some of these drugs can calm the shooting, burning or stabbing pains often caused nerve damage.

Why is it so painful?

Many things can cause nerve damage, such as injury, illness, or even exposure to toxic substances. Injured nerves may be activated in an inappropriate way and transmit pain signals that do not serve any useful purpose. It can cause severe pain and make it hard to control.

Many conditions can cause nerve damage (neuropathy).

Diabetes. Diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar. This can lead to nerve damage. Diabetic neuropathy is the first sign of diabetes. It causes numbness in your feet and hands. Shingles. Anybody who has suffered from chickenpox may be at high risk for developing shingles. Shingles is an itchy, painful blistering condition. Postherpetic neuralgia is a condition that causes shingles pain to persist after it has subsided.

As the chance of getting shingles rises with age, all people over 50 years old should be vaccinated against the Shingrix virus (Zostervirus). This vaccine can reduce the severity and pain. Everyone over 60 years old should receive the Zostavax herpes virus vaccine.

Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs can cause nerve damage. This causes pain and numbness. Herniated disk. Nerve damage can occur if a herniated disk in your spine squeezes a nerve passing through your vertebrae too tightly. The use of anti-seizure drugs may be helpful in fibromyalgia. This chronic condition causes muscle pain and tenderness all over your body.

What are the anti-seizure medications?

The overactive transmission or excessively sensitive nerves of pain signals (neuropathy), can be blocked by anti-seizure medication.

Certain anti-seizure medicines work especially well in certain situations. Carbamazepine (Carbatrol and Tegretol among others) is often prescribed for trigeminal nerve pain. It can be a severe condition that causes intense facial pain.

Some side effects may be less common with newer anti-seizure medications

There is evidence to support the use anticonvulsants, gabapentin and pregabalin (Lyrica), for pain relief from damaged nerves.

Pregabalin and gabapentin can be used to treat postherpetic neuropathy, diabetic nervepathy, and spinal cord injuries-related pain. For fibromyalgia, pregabalin can be also used.

They are well tolerated and cause few side effects so they are often first prescribed for patients with neuropathic pain. Gabapentin will be prescribed by doctors first. If that fails, pregabalin will be recommended. Side effects may include dizziness or confusion and drowsiness. Start with a lower dose, and increase slowly.

Your kidneys are responsible for removing these drugs from your body. This means that you may have to alter the dose if your kidney function has been compromised. A poor kidney function can increase your chance of experiencing side effects. You can take lower doses of this medication if your kidney function is impaired.

Anti-seizure medication may increase the risk of suicidal ideas or actions. If you're feeling suicidal, talk to your doctor right away.

If anti-seizure medication fails to manage your pain, you can use anti-seizure drugs in conjunction with other classes of medications that have distinct pain relief mechanisms (such as antidepressants).

Additional anticonvulsants

Although anti-seizure medications have been widely used for nerve pain treatment, they may need to be closely monitored by your doctor. These other forms of anticonvulsants may be prescribed by your doctor depending on what type of pain you have.

Other anti-seizure drugs include:

Some side effects could include:

You may require regular visits to your doctor if you are taking any of the anticonvulsants.

Continued research

Scientists will learn more about how anti-seizure medications work. This information will help them determine which drug may be most effective for various types of nerve pain. Nerve damage may cause severe pain, however anti-seizure medications can provide mild relief.