What Is Dantrolene Sodium?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Jacquelyn Gilchrist

Dantrolene sodium is a generic medication commonly prescribed to treat muscle spasms, particularly in patients who have suffered from a stroke or spinal cord injuries, or those who have multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy. Dantrolene sodium is a muscle relaxant that acts on the contractions of the muscles and may also affect the central nervous system.

This medication, available as a capsule to be taken by mouth, will initially be taken once daily. The doctor may gradually increase the dosage to two to four times daily, if needed. An initial dose will typically be 25 milligrams (mg). The doctor may increase this to no more than a total of 100 mg daily. It is recommended that patients who do not find relief after 45 days of treatment discontinue the medication.

Some side effects may occur with the use of dantrolene sodium, which should be reported to the prescribing physician if they become severe. These can include drowsiness, dizziness, or fatigue. Patients may also experience muscle weakness, difficulty swallowing, and diarrhea. Nausea, drooling, and slurred speech have also been reported, along with headaches and constipation.

More serious side effects require urgent medical care. These can include vision changes, tarry stools, or vomit with the appearance of coffee grounds. Dantrolene sodium may also cause trouble urinating, rapid heartbeat, or seizures. Chest pain, difficulty breathing, and signs of an infection, such as fever, chills, and sore throat have also been reported. Other patients have rarely experienced sensitivity to sunlight, unusual bruising or bleeding, and swelling of the feet or ankles.

Special precautions should be taken while using dantrolene sodium for muscle spasms. Alcohol should be avoided or limited, because it can worsen certain side effects. Since it can cause sensitivity to sunlight, patients should avoid unnecessary exposure to the sun.

Before taking dantrolene sodium, patients must disclose their other medical conditions. It should not be used by women who are breastfeeding and it should only be used during pregnancy under a doctor's strict supervision. Dantrolene sodium may be contraindicated for use by those who have heart problems or breathing problems. Those with liver problems may also be unable to take this medicine.

Dantrolene sodium may interact with other drugs. Patients must disclose their other medications and supplements, including other muscle relaxants, narcotic pain relievers, or anti-seizure medicines. It may also interact with antihistamine, sleeping pills, or psychiatric medications.

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