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  Dilantin: Know Its Side Effects

Author: Jenny Harker

I've noticed that doctors on TV medical dramas, when faced with a seizing patient, cry out for the reliable standby drug Dilantin.

Also known as phenytoin, Dilantin has relieved seizures in patients for the past sixty years and counting.

But, like most prescription medications, Dilantin has its share of nasty side effects.

If you have recently been prescribed this drug then you need to read on to know what you're in for.

I'm not knocking Dilantin. I've been using it for nearly twenty years to control my seizures. But, like the Boy Scouts say, be prepared.

Common side effects of this seizure medication include clumsiness, double vision, slurred speech, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting (ironically the same side effects felt after a seizure).

These side effects occur mostly when you begin taking the drug. Your body needs time to adjust to the medication.

Even now I have bouts of dizziness, clumsiness, double vision, and slurred speech.

Occasionally, Dilantin causes a liver disorder. If your skin appears yellow, you have a rash, your appetite no longer exists, and you frequently feel tired then see your doctor immediately.

If you have ever had liver disease be sure to tell your doctor before you start taking Dilantin. You may not be able to use this seizure medication.

Low blood pressure is another possible side effect. I mean 'the feeling ice cold while shaking uncontrollably until you pass out' kind of low blood pressure.

This happened to me once. I actually felt my blood pressure drop. I should have gone to a hospital. But, like most people, I stubbornly refused. But I suffered a long hellish two hours before my blood pressure rose again. I was lucky.

Dilantin can also cause excessive facial hair growth, which is not great if you happen to be a woman.

Be prepared to improve your dental hygiene. Dilantin often causes the gums to swell and bleed. Break out the dental floss and start using it every day. Your dentist will insist on it.

If you are a woman planning to have children, and you're using Dilantin, then be aware there is a small chance for congenital malformations. This risk increases if you are taking more than one anti-seizure drug.

Now, the FDA has rated Dilantin a category 'C' drug, which means the FDA isn't sure whether or not this drug causes birth defects.

But why take a chance? Talk to your doctor.

For you diabetics, Dilantin may increase your blood sugar. Be extra careful while monitoring your blood sugar levels.

You cannot drink alcohol while using this medication. No 'But what if's'! The beers you chug with your best buddy will react with the medication by either putting you into a deep sedation or it will cause you to have a seizure.

I found this out the hard way, only I was awake during the seizure. You don't want to be awake during a grand mal seizure! Being unconscious is the epileptic's friend, believe me.

Avoid sleeping pills, aspirin, and heartburn medications. These drugs combined with Dilantin can bring on a seizure.

I drink a cup of chamomile tea before bedtime. I use ibuprofren for headaches. I don't need to use any heartburn medications (knock on wood).

These are only a few of the medications you need to avoid while on Dilantin. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before you take any medications, including herbal supplements.

You will need to increase your intake of vitamin 'D', vitamins 'B6'and 'B12', your calcium intake, as well as iron and folic acid. Dilantin decreases all of these supplements in your body.

Don't let this information scare you. You hear scarier side effects caused by other prescription drugs on those TV commercials.

Dilantin is cheap and it works. The side effects are regrettable, but nothing in life is perfect.

I can function normally because Dilantin has tamed my rebellious brain. Its side effects have become a minor inconvenience easily lived with.

Talk to your doctor if you have questions concerning this or any other epilepsy medication. If your doctor speaks in 'medicalese'insist he or she speak in plain English.

For more information on this and other epilepsy medications visit the American Epilepsy Society online.

Epilepsy can be frightening. But Dilantin can tame the beast.

Jenny Harker is an experienced writer, gardener, and seasoned epileptic.

Copyright Jenny Harker 2005

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A Quick Note From The Publisher...

If you like the article above, you may be interested in the following article which is also related to Epilepsy...

Seizure Disorder Epilepsy
A chronic neurological condition, Epilepsy is characterized by recurrent and unprovoked seizures. Epilepsy is most commonly controlled through the use of various medications, but can sometimes patients will even undergo surgical procedures to try and further control the condition. As mentioned above the main characteristic of epilepsy is the presence of recurrent and unprovoked seizures, this is the main diagnosis requirement. A seizure is a temporary alteration in brain functions that expresses itself into a changed mental state, tonic or clonic movement among other symptoms. Seizures are due to temporary abnormal electrical activity of a group of brain cells. Typically tests such as: EEG, brain MRI, SPECT, PET, and magnetoencephalography to help constrict the affect area of the brain as well as classify the epileptic syndrome. All of these different tests however, are not actually useful in the original diagnosis. The 'Platinum' standard for diagnosis is through the...
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