Carbamazepine is an anti-seizure medication that is also employed to treat bipolar disorder in some individuals. Unlike some other anti-seizure drugs, it tends to have a low side effect profile, and people taking the medication may notice few or no side effects, especially once an appropriate dose is reached and the body adjusts to the drug. Mild side effects include nausea, dizziness, and dry mouth. There are rare but extremely serious side effects of carbamazepine, including an allergic reaction, gastrointestinal problems, suicidal thoughts, and other serious problems. Some concerns also exist about discontinuation of the medication and the possibility that it may create withdrawal.
The mild and infrequent side effects of carbamazepine are generally few in number. A few people will experience nausea or vomiting. Some users note that they feel slightly dizzy or unsteady, and others may feel tired or drowsy. One of the more common side effects is dry mouth, which may be exacerbated by taking other medications. If these become bothersome or occur frequently, patients should consult their doctors to determine whether the side effects of carbamazepine outweigh its benefits.
A number of extremely severe side effects of carbamazepine are noted, though they tend to occur only rarely. Patients need to be on the alert for anaphylactic shock due to an allergy the drug. Symptoms of this include difficulty breathing, hives, and swelling of the face, lips, mouth, and tongue.
Carbamazepine may affect the gastrointestinal tract, causing rupture or bleeding, which could be evidenced as black colored stools or vomiting of blood. Alternately, some patients experience severe and unrelenting vomiting. Other potential serious side effects of carbamazepine include suicidal thoughts and hallucinations. Jaundice, impairment to vision, chest pain or heart rhythm changes, and an increase in bruising or bleeding, along with a number of other issues, are also possible.
Rarely, patients taking carbamazepine have developed one of two very serious skin conditions called Stevens-Johnson syndrome or toxic epidermal necrolysis. The people at highest risk for developing these are of Asian descent. Both of these conditions are allergic reactions and they tend to cause blistering rashes and fever. Those taking the drug should report any form of skin rash right away to prescribing doctors.
There is also some discussion about whether carbamazepine may cause unpleasant symptoms upon drug discontinuation. Since this has been noted in some populations, experts recommend that patients who stop taking this this drug do so slowly. If the medication is tapered at a rate of about 25% per week, people may not experience withdrawal. On the other hand, symptoms of the illnesses being treated by carbamazepine, like seizure disorders or bipolar disorder, may return quickly unless another treatment is initiated.