Anticonvulsants are medications that are designed to prevent convulsions and other types of seizures. Seizures occur in 3% to 5% of people with MS, which is somewhat higher than the incidence of epilepsy in the general population. Seizures may occur as part of the disease but may also be related to infection, fever, or abrupt cessation of certain medications.
May Be Used to Treat Pain
In addition to controlling seizures, several anticonvulsants may be used to treat some types of pain in MS. Carbamazepine (Tegretol®), phenytoin (Dilantin®), gabapentin (Neurontin®), and duloxetine hydrochloride (Cymbalta®), among others, are used in the management of neurogenic pain that results when nerve impulses cross from one fiber tract to another (like an electrical “short circuit”), causing the burning, stabbing, shock-like sensations that can occur in MS. Trigeminal neuralgia—a stabbing facial pain experienced by some people with MS—is most often treated with carbamazepine.
Side Effects Should Be Monitored
People who are taking these agents should be monitored by their physicians. Side effects can include dizziness, loss of balance, nausea, excessive gum growth and inflammation, and blood abnormalities.