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What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a medical condition that causes people to have seizures. Epilepsy is sometimes called a Seizure Disorder. Seizures happen when nerve cells in the brain (also called neurons) send out the wrong signals. When people have seizures, they may have strange sensations and emotions, stare blankly, have uncontrolled muscle spasms (jerking of arms or legs), and, in some cases, become unconscious. Seizures can last from a few seconds to a few minutes.
Below, you’ll find some key facts about epilepsy and seizures. If you think you may have epilepsy, or if you think a family member or friend may have epilepsy, you should talk with a doctor or other healthcare professional.
Key Facts about Epilepsy and Seizures:
- Having two or more unprovoked seizures usually means that a person has epilepsy.
- There are many different types of seizures (see below). The kind of seizure depends on which part of the brain is affected.
- There are some known causes for seizures like illness, brain injury, and abnormal brain development—but in many cases, the cause is unknown.
- Doctors use many tests to diagnose epilepsy. Once diagnosed, it is important for patients to talk to their doctor and discuss a treatment plan that is right for them.
- There is no known cure for epilepsy, but there are medicines and other treatment options that can control seizures for most people.
- If you or a family member or friend has epilepsy, it is important to learn all you can about the condition so you can find the right treatment option. Talk to you doctor or other healthcare professional.
There are many different types of seizures which are divided into two major categories: partial seizures (also called focal seizures) and generalized seizures.
Different medications are used to treat different types of seizures. Sometimes, two or more medications are needed to control a patient’s seizures.
Depakote, Depakote ER, and Depakote Sprinkle Capsules, when taken alone or with other seizure medications, are used to treat seizure disorder in adults and children
Partial seizures occur when there is abnormal activity in a specific area on only one side of the brain. Partial seizures are the most common seizure type in people with epilepsy. Partial seizures are subdivided into two types:
- Simple partial seizures do not cause loss of consciousness. These seizures may cause sudden jerking and last about 90 seconds. After the seizure, the person may feel weak.
- Complex partial seizures cause a loss or change of consciousness. These seizures may cause behaviors like lip smacking, picking at clothes, or fumbling. They usually last one or two minutes. After the seizure, the person may be confused or sleepy.
Partial seizures may spread to other parts of the brain causing a generalized seizure. Generalized seizures occur when there is abnormal activity on both sides of the brain. These seizures may cause loss of consciousness. They are sub-categorized into several different types including:
- Absence seizures (also called petit mal seizures) cause a lapse of awareness. Sometimes, the person will just stare for a few seconds, or their eyes will flutter. They are sometimes so brief, they are hard to detect, especially in children.
- Atonic seizures produce a sudden loss of muscle tone. They may produce loss of posture, head dropping, or even collapse. They are sometimes called drop seizures.
- Myoclonic seizures are quick contractions of muscles, usually on both sides of the body. Sometimes, they only involve one arm or one foot.
- Tonic clonic seizures (also called grand mal seizures) are the most common type of generalized seizure. They start with stiffening of legs and arms (the tonic phase), followed by jerking of limbs and face (the clonic phase).
Who should not take Depakote, Depakote ER, or Depakote Sprinkle Capsules
- Women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant
- Patients who have liver disease
- Patients who have urea cycle disorder
- Patients who have a known allergy to Depakote
Use and Important Safety Information You Should Know About Depakote Products
Depakote, Depakote ER, and Depakote Sprinkle Capsules, when taken alone or with other seizure medications, are used to treat seizure disorders in adults and children 10 years of age and older. These seizure disorders need to include complex partial seizures or simple and/or complex absence seizures.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION1-3
Depakote, Depakote ER, and Depakote Sprinkle Capsules are medicines prescribed by your doctor as part of your treatment plan. Serious side effects can occur during treatment. It is very important that you know about these serious side effects and talk about them with your doctor.
The following serious side effects can occur with Depakote, Depakote ER, or Depakote Sprinkle Capsules:
Some people have experienced serious liver problems, including death, while taking valproic acid.* Children under the age of 2 are at much greater risk than adults of experiencing fatal liver problems. Your doctor should check your liver function before you start this medication and at frequent intervals thereafter. You will also be monitored for symptoms that lead to liver toxicity. Before taking this medication, tell your doctor if you have liver disease. Depakote, Depakote ER, or Depakote Sprinkle Capsules should not be taken if you have liver disease. Notify your doctor immediately if you develop symptoms of feeling ill, weakness, tiredness, facial swelling, and loss of appetite or vomiting.
Before taking valproate,* women who could become pregnant should talk with their doctor, as valproic acid has been associated with birth defects in children of women who have taken it while pregnant. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately. Your doctor should advise you of the risk and alternative treatment options. Be sure to read the Patient Information Leaflet, which appears as the last section of the full Prescribing Information.
Some children and adults taking valproate have experienced a serious, life-threatening problem called pancreatitis, which means that the pancreas has become inflamed. Call your doctor immediately if you experience stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and/or loss of appetite, as these can be symptoms of pancreatitis.
You should not take this medication if you are allergic to it, if you have liver disease, or if you have a condition called urea cycle disorder, which may cause too much ammonia to build up in your body. Let your doctor know if you have been diagnosed with these conditions.
There have been reports of developmental delay, autism and/or autism spectrum disorder in some children of women who took this medicine while pregnant.
Taking this medication may increase the risk of thoughts or behaviors of suicide in patients taking it for any illness or disorder. Patients, their caregivers and family need to be alert for new or worsening signs or symptoms of depression, thoughts or behaviors of suicide, or for any unusual changes in behavior or mood. Behaviors of concern should be immediately reported to a health care professional.
Some people taking Depakote, Depakote ER, or Depakote Sprinkle Capsules may experience low blood platelet counts. Your doctor should order blood tests to check your platelets while you are taking this medication, as well as prior to surgery. Tell your doctor if you have any unexplained bleeding or bruising.
Elevated ammonia levels and hypothermia (an unintentional drop in body temperature) have been reported in some patients receiving valproate. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience abnormal drowsiness and vomiting or changes in mental status.
A fever associated with other symptoms such as rash or enlargement of the lymph nodes should be reported to your doctor immediately, as this may be a sign of a serious reaction.
Depakote, Depakote ER, and Depakote Sprinkle Capsules can affect other medications. Your doctor may need to perform certain blood tests while taking this medication. Tell your doctor about all medicines you are taking or planning to take, including those without a prescription, vitamins, and herbal products.
Some older patients with dementia have experienced extreme drowsiness. Let your doctor know if you become too tired or if your appetite changes.
You may experience drowsiness when you start this medication. You should not drive or operate dangerous machinery until you know how this medication will affect you.
The most common side effects reported in clinical studies were nausea, vomiting, extreme drowsiness, dizziness, weakness, abdominal pain, stomach upset, rash, diarrhea, increased appetite, pain, tremor, weight gain, back pain, hair loss, headache, fever, loss of appetite, constipation, double/blurred vision, side-to-side eye movements, staggering, emotional upset, abnormal thinking, amnesia, flu syndrome, infection, bronchitis, runny nose, bruising, swelling of the arms or legs, insomnia, nervousness, depression, sore throat, shortness of breath, and ringing of the ears.
This is not a complete list of reported side effects.
Depakote and Depakote ER should be swallowed whole and should not be crushed or chewed.
Depakote Sprinkle Capsules may be swallowed whole or opened and the contents sprinkled on soft food, such as applesauce or pudding. The food with the drug should be eaten immediately without chewing. You must eat all of that food to get your full dose of medicine.
Keep Depakote, Depakote ER, and Depakote Sprinkle Capsules and all other medication where children cannot reach them.
This is the most important information to know about Depakote, Depakote ER, and Depakote Sprinkle Capsules. For more information, talk with your health care provider.
*Divalproex sodium is a compound that contains sodium valproate and valproic acid.
References: 1. Depakote [package insert]. North Chicago, IL: Abbott Laboratories.
2. Depakote ER [package insert]. North Chicago, IL: Abbott Laboratories.
3. Depakote Sprinkle Capsules [package insert]. North Chicago, IL: Abbott Laboratories.