Lamictal®, which is now available in generic form as lamotrigine, is an anti-convulsant medication. Like a number of other anti-convulsants it has proven to not only be useful in treating conditions like epilepsy, but also in the treatment of bipolar disorder, and is actually approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for this purpose. For either seizure disorders or bipolar, there can be some strong preference toward using Lamictal® because it can have a lower incidence of certain side effects and be tolerated better by many patients. This is not to say that the medication is free of problems and there are some very serious Lamictal® side effects that bear mention, in addition in to more mild side effects that may or may or may not affect people who take it.
The two most potentially dangerous Lamictal® side effects are increased risk for suicidality and potential development of Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) or toxic epidermal necrolysis. The first risk applies most to children, teens and young adults who begin taking Lamictal®, but risk for suicidality may occur in all populations at a lower rate. It is extremely important that people beginning or continuing to take this drug be followed by a doctor. If the medication is prescribed for bipolar disorder, that doctor should be preferably be a psychiatrist. If a person begins to have hopeless feelings, suicidal thoughts, or a marked increase in depression, he or she should report these side effects immediately to the treating physician. Another medication may be more appropriate and might end suicidal thinking.
Stevens-Johnson syndrome is an extremely severe skin condition that may occur in association with some infections. It can also occur due to taking certain medications. Unfortunately, one of the Lamictal® side effects is development of this serious disease. SJS may start out as a rash, where the skin comes off easily. Blisters are common in the mouth and nose, and there may be hives or the skin may be painful. These symptoms frequently occur several days after symptoms like fever, cough and sore throat. Unchecked, SJS can damage the skin, organs, and result in skin or blood infection.
Even more serious than SJS is a condition considered to be related called toxic epidermal necrolysis. It is very similar to SJS. The main difference is the skin tends to shed from the body in large pieces. Both conditions are extremely serious and it’s therefore important to be aware of the symptoms. Any development of a rash should be reported to the prescribing doctor.
Other Lamictal® side effects may be transient. Some people lose weight while taking this drug, which may be welcomed, since many bipolar drugs have the opposite effect. Upset stomach or headache may not be greeted with the same enthusiasm. A few people have problems with dizziness or drowsiness when they take this medication.
Many people report no Lamictal® side effects or very minimal ones, and Lamictal® is often preferred to other mood stabilizers/anti-convulsants because it has less effect on the kidneys and liver. Though it can have serious side effects, there are many people who take this medication with no complications whatsoever, and no development of the serious illnesses mentioned above. It’s important to remember that each is person is different. Generally, the need for the medication greatly outweighs the risk of trying it, and patients who understand what to look for may quickly discontinue (upon doctor’s advice) any medication that appears to be causing dangerous symptoms.