Oxcarbazepine is a drug that is classified as an anticonvulsant, and is used primarily to alleviate the symptoms of epilepsy. This medication's effects are due to its ability to block sodium channels, preventing the uncontrolled firing of brain cells, or neurons, which occur during epileptic seizures. As with most medications, this drug has the potential to cause side effects, and some oxcarbazepine side effects are due to the same mechanism by which it exerts its beneficial effects.
Generally, this medication is well-tolerated, as most patients do not experience a large amount of oxcarbazepine side effects. The more common side effects seen with this drug are usually minor, and do not require medical attention. Dizziness, fatigue, and drowsiness may all affect a person taking this medication. Some side effects related to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract may occur as well, such as constipation, upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting. Many of these side effects diminish in prominence over time, as patients develop tolerance to them upon repeated exposure.
Severe fatigue, or persistent fatigue should be mentioned to a doctor or medical professional. This type of fatigue could be due to one of the more rare oxcarbazepine side effects known as hyponatremia. This is a condition that involves decreased sodium levels in the body, and it occurs in approximately 2.5 percent of patients taking this medication. Regular sodium monitoring tests can determine if a patient is experiencing hyponatremia or simple fatigue.
Occasionally, severe side effects can develop that may indicate potentially dangerous medical conditions. Problems concentrating or speaking, mental slowness, chest pain, and bloody stools may be signs of harmful effects on the brain or GI tract. A doctor should be notified immediately should any of these oxcarbazepine side effects occur. Patients may have to switch medications under a doctor's supervision to avoid permanent damage to these organs.
Higher doses of this drug may lead to increased levels of oxcarbazepine side effects. Dosages over 1,200 milligrams (mg), in particular, may cause some patients to be especially sensitive to sunlight. Extended exposure to the sun in this case may cause potentially harmful or painful sunburns. Extra precautions, including sunscreen and ample clothing, could be needed by these patients to avoid sun damage.
Changes in mood may rarely occur when taking oxcarbazepine. Patients should contact a medical professional if they undergo shifts in mood after taking this drug. Such changes can entail increased depression, suicidal thoughts, and even suicidal attempts. Close monitoring and additional treatment could be required in these cases to prevent harm to the patient.