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Ethosuximide for Epilepsy

Ethosuximide for Epilepsy

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
ethosuximide Zarontin

How It Works

Ethosuximide reduces the type of brain activity linked with absence seizures.

Why It Is Used

Ethosuximide is one of the drugs of choice for children who have absence seizures.

How Well It Works

Ethosuximide is effective in preventing absence seizures in children and adults.1

Side Effects

Ethosuximide may cause stomach problems, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Stomach cramps.
  • Loss of appetite.

It may also cause headache, mild drowsiness, dizziness, and hiccups.

In rare cases, ethosuximide may cause a serious skin rash. Contact your doctor if you develop a rash while taking ethosuximide.

FDA Advisory. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory on antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) and the risk of suicide. Talk to your doctor about these possible side effects and the warning signs of suicide in adults and in children and teens.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

It may take time and careful, controlled adjustments by you and your doctor to find the combination, schedule, and dosing of medicine to best manage your epilepsy. The goal is to prevent seizures while causing as few side effects as possible. After you and your doctor figure out the medicine program that works best for you, make sure to follow your program exactly as prescribed.

  • Drug interactions. Many medicines for epilepsy can interact with other medicines you may be taking. This means that your epilepsy medicine may not work as well, or it may affect the way another medicine you are taking works. Some of these interactions can be dangerous. It is important to tell your doctor about all the medicines, herbal pills, and dietary supplements you are taking.
  • Risk of birth defects. All medicines for epilepsy have some risk of birth defects. But the risk of birth defects needs to be carefully compared to other risks to the baby if the mother stops taking her epilepsy medicine. If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, be sure to plan ahead and talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of taking epilepsy medicine during your pregnancy. It you are already pregnant, it is not too late. The best thing to do is talk to your doctor about your pregnancy before you make any changes to the medicines you are taking.
  • Other concerns. For some people, ethosuximide may produce side effects or carry risks that are not fully known yet. Report any unexpected side effects or problems to your doctor.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Drugs for epilepsy (2008). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 6(70): 37–46.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Steven C. Schachter, MD - Neurology
Last Revised August 28, 2013

Last Revised: August 28, 2013

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