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What is Lamictal&Reg;?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Images By: Life Mental Health, Dan Race, Phase4Photography, Jürgen Fälchle, Ocskay Bence
  • Last Modified Date: 07 January 2020
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Lamictal®, known by the generic name lamotrigine, is a medication used in the treatment of certain seizures and epileptic conditions and also to treat bipolar disorder (BP). It has been shown to be very effective for some people suffering from bipolar disorder, especially those who suffer from rapid cycling, and unlike other seizure medications used for BP, there is evidence it works well as an antidepressant. It may not immediately work, and won’t necessarily halt an acute manic episode, but it is often thought to be effective in treating hypomania and lessening cycling so that fewer episodes occur.

One of the advantages of Lamictal® is that it has a lower side effect incidence. It is not particularly indicated in weight gain, and many people who take it don’t feel tired. There are some common side effects that can occur on this medication, and these can include insomnia, stomach upset, tremor, blurred vision, acne, rash and headache. Women are more likely than men to report side effects and risks of these go up as dose increases.

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There is a very serious, though extremely rare, potential complication of taking Lamictal®. People may develop life-threatening skin diseases that include hives, rash, sores in the mouth, fever, swelling of the lips and tongue, and swollen lymph nodes. Any evidence of rash should be reported to the prescribing doctor, as this may be indication to discontinue the medication. These skin conditions don’t occur often, but are most likely to occur if people increase the medication dosing too quickly, or if they are concurrently taking Depakote® (valproic acid).

Lamictal® may also affect the liver, and people should report unusual bruising, yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice) and excessive bleeding. Yet another caution exists when this medication is prescribed to children, teens or young adults. They may be at increased risk for developing suicidal thoughts, feelings or behavior, especially when this medication is introduced. Any increase in suicidality should be reported to doctors.

Due to the importance of avoiding potentially serious complications, Lamictal® is prescribed in very low doses in the beginning. This usually means people won’t fully feel its effects right away. It can take several weeks to a couple of months to get to a dose where symptoms are relieved. This is one of the reasons why it may be ineffective to try to calm down an acute manic episode. It can’t be started at high enough doses to be effective without producing greater risk of side effects.

These risks also make it vital for people to precisely follow doctor’s directions on how to take Lamictal®. It should not be increased or discontinued (as this may cause seizures) without doctor’s advice. The medication should never be shared with others.

People who take this medication for seizure disorders or for bipolar conditions will usually need to continue taking it each day. It becomes a daily med for those with these conditions. Over time, especially with BP, it may prove less effective. It is commonly the case that people who take bipolar medications may need to switch to different ones after a few years of use. If Lamictal® seems to no longer treat the disorder for which it was prescribed, it’s important to bring this to the attention of a doctor so either a new dosage can be considered or another medication can be tried instead.

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