What Is Ethosuximide?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Jacquelyn Gilchrist

Ethosuximide is a medication prescribed to manage petit mal seizures. This anticonvulsant works by restoring normal electrical activity within the patient's brain. It may help to reduce incidences of loss of awareness. During these types of seizures, a patient is unresponsive and will simply stare blankly. A doctor may prescribe ethosuximide along with other anticonvulsants.

It is typically taken one to two times daily, with or without food. Treatment may begin with a lower dose of ethosuximide. The doctor will monitor the patient's response to the drug and adjust the dosage as needed. This medication may be taken as a capsule or a liquid syrup. While it can help manage petit mal seizures as long as the patient continues to take the drug, it cannot cure this condition.

Patients should be aware that some side effects can occur with the use of ethosuximide, which should be reported to the doctor if they are bothersome or do not go away. Some people may experience stomach upset, nausea, and vomiting. Loss of appetite, weight loss, and diarrhea. Dizziness, drowsiness, and abruptly waking up and being frightened have also been reported. Patients may also experience an overgrowth of the gums, hair growth in unusual places, and a swollen tongue.

Rarely, more serious side effects may occur, which require immediate medical attention. These can include swollen and aching joints, severe fatigue, and a facial rash. Rapid breathing, unusual bleeding, and signs of an infection, such as chills and a fever, have also been reported. Rarely, ethosuximide and other anticonvulsants may result in suicidal tendencies amongst patients. Patients should see a doctor if they notice aggressive or violent behavior, panic attacks, and compulsive behavior, along with a preoccupation with death.

Certain precautions should be taken while patients are using ethosuximide. The doctor will likely order periodic lab tests to check the body's response to the treatment. Alcoholic beverages should be avoided, as these can increase the risk of certain side effects. Patients who are undergoing surgery, including dental surgery, should inform the doctor that they use this medication. In addition, diabetic patients and those who have alcohol dependence should be aware that the liquid form of this drug can contain both sugar and alcohol.

Before using ethosuximide, patients should disclose all of their medical conditions. This drug may be contraindicated for use by those who have liver disease, kidney disease, or any mental disorder. Patients who are breastfeeding should discuss potential risks with the doctor. Women who are pregnant should use ethosuximide only if not using poses a greater risk to the mother. Patients should also disclose all other medications and supplements they take, because this anticonvulsant may interact with other drugs, including sleeping pills, antidepressants, and pain relievers.

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