There are various uses for acetazolamide, including altitude sickness, glaucoma, epileptic seizures, and congestive heart failure. It is a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor, which regulates a protein in the body that sometimes needs to be reduced. It is usually offered in tablets or extended release capsules, and the proper dosage often differs depending on the condition being treated, though it is typically anywhere from one to four pills per day. Side effects range from mild, such as loss of appetite, nausea, or headaches, to more serious, including fever, side pain, or tingling in the hands and feet.
Doctors typically provide their patients with proper dosages and instructions for this drug, as it is usually prescription-only. It may be prescribed in either a tablet or an extended release capsule, which can reduce the chances of side effects. Neither the tablet nor the capsule should be broken or cut in half, as swallowing it whole is the only way for it to work properly. Acetazolamide should be taken with a glass of water, and possibly with food if it tends to result in temporary illness. Patients who miss a dose are usually advised to just take the next pill as scheduled, as doubling up on acetazolamide is not recommended.
Like many drugs, those taking acetazolamide should avoid operating heavy machinery while under its influence, including driving. This drug also tends to interact negatively with certain other medications, which is why patients should let their doctor know of any other drugs that they are taking. Lithium, aspirin, diflunisal, primidone, and cyclosporine are all drugs that tend to cause complications or become less effective when taken with acetazolamide, though this is just a short list of such medications. Additionally, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should talk to a doctor before considering this drug since it is not known how it affects babies.
Side effects of acetazolamide range from mild to severe, and should always be mentioned to a doctor. For example, some of the most common mild acetazolamide side effects include vision and hearing problems, fatigue, dizziness, nervousness, headaches, confusion, and skin that is suddenly sensitive to sunlight. Some people also experience loss of appetite, combined with other stomach issues like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. More serious side effects of acetazolamide include fever, sore throat, sudden bruising or bleeding, a skin rash, tingling in the hands and feet, or side pain. Additionally, some people show signs of being allergic to this drug, such as difficulty breathing, hives, and swollen tongue, lips, and face.