What is Valproic Acid?

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  • Written By: Autumn Rivers
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 25 January 2020
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Valproic acid is typically used to treat seizures, as it is an anticonvulsant. It can also be used to help prevent migraine headaches, as well as mania in those suffering from bipolar disorder, and aggression in children with ADHD. It comes in various forms, such as tablets, capsules, and syrup, any of which should be taken with food at the same time everyday for minimal nausea and maximum effectiveness. This medication should not be stopped suddenly since it could cause a serious seizure, which is why doctors may gradually lessen the dosage when a patient wants to stop taking it.

Anticonvulsants work by reducing the chances that neurons will excessively and quickly fire in the brain, as this is often how seizures start. This type of drug can also treat mania, which is a mood characterized by an unusual level of sudden excitement, often found in those suffering from bipolar disorder. Additionally, valproic acid prevents migraines, though it is not known for being effective against headaches after they have shown up. In some cases, it can treat sudden aggression in children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.


One of the main forms of valproic acid is an extended-release tablet, which allows the medication to continually work throughout the day, allowing patients to only take one daily. A delayed-release tablet works gradually so that side effects are not extreme, while a sprinkle capsule is filled with beads of valproic acid that patients can sprinkle over food. Finally, syrup is often easy for patients to drink, though it should not be added to carbonated beverages. Aside from the extended-release tablets, all forms of valproic acid should be taken twice per day, and patients are advised to swallow tablets whole. In order to prevent serious side effects, this medication should be taken with meals, and the dosage is typically gradually increased by the doctor as needed.

Some common side effects may show up when taking valproic acid, and should be mentioned to a doctor. They may include dizziness, headaches, fatigue, change in weight, back pain, mood swings, memory loss, hair loss, vision changes, and runny nose. Some people also notice digestive issues, such as heartburn, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and constipation. More serious side effects should be reported to a doctor immediately, such as excessive bruising, bleeding that does not stop, skin rash, blisters, fever, joint aches, depression, confusion, swollen glands, suicidal thoughts, and difficulty breathing. Overdose symptoms are typically an irregular heart rate, sleepiness, and even a coma.



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