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Valproate is available in capsules, tablets, and syrups that you take by mouth. It also comes in a sprinkle form that is a good choice for children. It can also be given as a shot.
It is not clear how valproate prevents seizures. But it may prevent them by increasing levels of a certain chemical in the brain.
Valproate is a drug of choice for:
Valproate prevents seizures in most people who use it to
control complex partial seizures and absence seizures. It is also effective
against generalized tonic-clonic seizures, myoclonic seizures, and atonic
Common side effects of valproate include:
These side effects may increase as the dosage needed to control
seizures increases. Because valproate levels in the body tend to go up and
down, some side effects may vary from day to day or even within a single day.
Nausea and stomach problems usually go away after the body adjusts to the drug.
Hair loss, weight gain, and tremors often come with long-term use of the
Skin rash, a very common side effect of antiepileptic drugs, is
less common with valproate. Valproate tends to have less effect on your
thinking, memory, or learning processes than other antiepileptic drugs (as long
as the drug levels in your bloodstream do not become too high).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning on
antiepileptic medicines and the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts. The FDA
does not recommend that people stop using these medicines. Instead, people who
take antiepileptic medicine should be watched closely for
warning signs of suicide. People who take
antiepileptic medicine and who are worried about this side effect should talk
to a doctor.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference
is not available in all systems.)
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
program that works best for you, make sure to follow your
program exactly as prescribed.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
CitationsDrugs for epilepsy (2008). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 6(70): 37–46.Jentink J, et al. (2010). Valproic acid monotherapy in pregnancy and major congenital malformations. New England Journal of Medicine, 362(23): 2185–2193.
August 26, 2011
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics & Steven C. Schachter, MD - Neurology
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