Depakote is used to help treat the symptoms of epilepsy. While there is no cure for this disease, some drug regimens may help control the symptoms so that they do not interfere with the patient's life in a severe degree. Depakote is intended to be used in long-term situations to help manage your symptoms, but your doctor may want to do additional monitoring to help ensure that your body is taking to the medication well. Proper usage on the part of the patient is essential to patient safety while using Depakote.
Indications and Usage
Depakote is the brand name for the drug divalproex sodium or valproic acid. This drug may also be sold under the brand names Depakote DR, Depakote ER and Depakote Sprinkles depending on the type of prescription you have been issued. Depakote is available in a syrup, delayed release capsules and tablets, extended release tablets and enteric coated tablets. This drug may be used in combination with other medications to help treat seizures caused by epilepsy. In some cases it may also be used to treat bipolar disorder or similar manic and depressive states. This drug can be used for long-term treatment without concern, though your doctor may occasionally ask for a blood sample to confirm that a safe level of the drug is in your system at any given time.
Prescriptions are often taken three times a day. If you are taking any type of capsule or tablet, you should not crush, chew or split them when you take your medication. If you are using sprinkle capsules, you may mix these with a small portion of soft food such as pudding or applesauce. You should not chew the granules when consuming your dose, and may need to drink a glass of water to ensure that you have consumed all of the medication. Do not double up on doses of your medication to make up for those you have missed and you should not take a larger dose than what you have been prescribed to avoid potentially serious complications.
Most adult patients will be started at 750 mg a day in divided doses if they are treating mania. Those using Depakote for alternative uses such as migraine control may be started at 250 mg per day in divided doses. These doses will be increased as necessary to help manage your condition effectively. Doses for adults should not exceed 1000 mg per day.
Children using Depakote will have their prescription altered based on their overall body weight. In most cases, dosing will not exceed 250 mg per day in divided doses. Children under 2 who use Depakote for seizure control will need to be monitored very carefully during the first six months of using the drug. This age group has an increased risk of developing liver problems or heart failure when using Depakote. Careful administration and proper dosing is essential to avoid a very serious reaction. Those who already suffer from these diseases should also take additional care when using this drug for epileptic treatment.
If you are trying to become pregnant it is important that you talk with your doctor about how to adjust your dosage of Depakote. Those suffering from bipolar disorder or epilepsy face serious health concerns that may affect their unborn child. You may need to adjust you mediation to help address these risks. Depakote has been found to be compatible with breast feeding, so there is no concern about doing damage to your child if you take this drug after pregnancy.
Depakote Side Effects
Up to 57 percent of users report shakiness when using Depakote. Other common side effects include nausea in 48 percent of patients, headaches in 31 percent, drowsiness in 30 percent, vomiting in up to 27 percent, weakness in 27 percent, and dizziness in 25 percent. In many cases these symptoms gradually get better throughout the life of the prescription. If your symptoms do not improve or become worse over time, contact your doctor to determine whether or not you will need a change in your prescription.
Less common side effects, occurring in 5-25 percent of users include hair loss, abdominal pain, diarrhea, flu symptoms, infections, double vision, insomnia, blurred vision, nervousness, weight gain, back pain, memory loss, coordination issues, fever, ringing in the ears or changes in appetite. These symptoms are not necessarily severe, but you should report them to your doctor to determine if a change in your prescription might be necessary. Do not stop taking your medication without specific medical instruction to do so.
In serious cases, patients may report depression, signs of liver damage, signs of pancreatitis, worsening seizures, low body temperature, unexplained bruising, or suicidal thoughts. Any of these side effects should be reported to your medical professional immediately so you can receive the proper treatment. If you begin to develop itching, hives, rash or unexplained swelling contact emergency medical services because you may be having an allergic reaction to your medication.
If you begin to suffer from dizziness, poor coordination, tremor, confusion, drowsiness, nausea or vomiting you may be suffering from an overdose of your medication. Contact emergency medical services or your local poison control center as soon as possible to get help. There is no specific antidote for this medication so you will need to get immediate medical care to rid your system of the medication.
Some medications are known for interacting negatively with Depakote. These include phenytoin, carbamazepine, rifampin, and phenobarbital which decrease the levels of the medication in your system, thus making it less effective. You should avoid taking high doses of drugs that contain aspirin because they will raise your blood levels and could cause heart-based complications. Other medications, including amitriptyline or lamotrigine may in turn be effected by Depakote, which could cause an unsafe reaction in the body. Do not combine Depakote with topiramate as this will increase the ammonia levels in your blood to a level that is unsafe.
Those using Depakote should not take alcohol or illegal drugs during the length of their prescription. This can make your symptoms worse, and may increase your risk that you may develop side effects, most notably sedation and dizziness. You should inform your doctor if you suffer from any diseases that affect the pancreas, liver or metabolism as this may impact how well you can clear Depakote from your system.