Depakote® is an anti-seizure medication that may be used to treat epilepsy or other seizure disorders. It is also widely used as a treatment for bipolar disorder, and some doctors find it can work well in the treatment of migraine headaches. There are a number of names under which this drug can be sold including Depacon®, Depakene®, Epival®, and Epilim®, Generically, it is usually called divalproex sodium or valproic acid.
Those taking Depakote®, which may come in a regular and extended release formulas and in several dosages, need to follow prescription advice exactly. The medication should never be taken without a doctor’s guidance, and people on this drug should not discontinue it either without doctor’s advice. Discontinuation may cause seizures, particularly if the med is being used for a seizure disorder.
There are some important guidelines when people first begin using Depakote®. First, it is very important to discuss any other medications taken with the prescribing physician. This would include not only prescription meds, but also over the counter drugs, herbs and homeopathic preparations.
Women need to be very careful when taken divalproex sodium. It has an exceptionally high incidence of extremely serious birth defects, and those who are pregnant or planning to become so should not take Depakote®. It is also thought risky for kids under the age of two to receive this medication since it may cause liver failure. Women who breastfeed should either discontinue this practice or consider another medication.
Doctors will warn people about the potentially serious side effects of Depakote® for any one who takes it. These can include potential for liver failure, pancreatitis, and most importantly the fact that suicidality may increase when treatment first begins. This is particularly the case for teens and young adults, but any suicidal thoughts or feelings in any person who takes this drug should be immediately reported to the prescribing physician.
Most people are given a list of serious side effects when they take this medication. In general, people should alert doctors immediately if they experience confusion, fainting, flu-like symptoms accompanied by fever, or involuntary movement of the eyes. Other things to look for are blood in the urine or reduced urinary output, jaundice (yellowing of skin and whites of eyes), or double vision.
Though a few people will experience serious reactions to Depakote®, many tolerate this medication well. There are common but not serious side effects that may be transient or may not even occur. Some people might note stomach pain, nausea or constipation, and women may particularly be aware of slight changes to their menstrual cycle or breast enlargement. Weight gain can be an issue for about 10% of people who take this medication. Others may have problems with hair loss or sleepiness.
Depakote® is a serious medicine and it isn’t prescribed lightly because of some of its potential side effects. However, it is often of great use in controlling serious illness like seizures or bipolar disorder. Doctors and their patients tend to weigh risk versus benefits of using this drug, and it is very clear that benefits outweigh risks in many circumstances.