Carbamazepine may cause life-threatening allergic reactions called Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) or toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN). These allergic reactions may cause severe damage to the skin and internal organs. The risk of SJS or TEN is highest in people of Asian ancestry who have a genetic (inherited) risk factor. If you are Asian, your doctor will usually order a test to see if you have the genetic risk factor before prescribing carbamazepine. If you do have this risk factor, your doctor will probably prescribe another medication that is less likely to cause SJS or TEN. If you do not have this genetic risk factor, your doctor may prescribe carbamazepine, but there is still a slight risk that you will develop SJS or TEN. Call your doctor immediately if you develop a rash, blisters, or a fever during your treatment with carbamazepine.
Stevens-Johnson syndrome or toxic epidermal necrolysis usually occurs during the first few months of treatment with carbamazepine. If you have taken carbamazepine for several months or longer, you probably will not need to be tested, even if you are Asian.
Carbamazepine may decrease the number of blood cells produced by your body. In rare cases, the number of blood cells may decrease enough to cause serious or life-threatening health problems. Tell your doctor if you have ever had a decreased number of blood cells, especially if it was caused by another medication. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately: sore throat, fever, chills, or other signs of infection; unusual bleeding or bruising; tiny purple dots or spots on the skin; mouth sores; or rash.
Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor will order certain lab tests before and during your treatment to check your body's response to carbamazepine.
Your doctor or pharmacist will give you the manufacturer's patient information sheet (Medication Guide) when you begin treatment with carbamazepine and each time you refill your prescription. Read the information carefully and ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions. You can also visit the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website (http://www.fda.gov/Drugs) or the manufacturer's website to obtain the Medication Guide.
Carbamazepine is used alone or in combination with other medications to control certain types of seizures in patients with epilepsy. It is also used to treat trigeminal neuralgia (a condition that causes facial nerve pain). Carbamazepine extended-release capsules (Equetro brand only) are used to treat episodes of mania (frenzied, abnormally excited or irritated mood) or mixed episodes (symptoms of mania and depression that happen at the same time) in patients with bipolar I disorder (manic-depressive disorder; a disease that causes episodes of depression, episodes of mania, and other abnormal moods). Carbamazepine is in a class of medications called anticonvulsants. It works by reducing abnormal electrical activity in the brain.
Carbamazepine comes as a tablet, a chewable tablet, an extended-release (long-acting) tablet, an extended-release capsule, and a suspension (liquid) to take by mouth. The regular tablet, chewable tablet, and liquid are usually taken two to four times a day with meals. The extended-release tablet is usually taken twice a day with meals. The extended-release capsule is usually taken twice a day with or without meals. To help you remember to take carbamazepine, take it at around the same times every day. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take carbamazepine exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.
Swallow the extended-release tablets whole; do not split, chew, or crush them. The extended-release capsules may be opened and the beads inside sprinkled over food, such as a teaspoon of applesauce or similar food. Do not crush or chew the extended-release capsules or the beads inside them.
Shake the liquid well before each use to mix the medication evenly.
Your doctor will start you on a low dose of carbamazepine and gradually increase your dose.
Carbamazepine may help control your condition, but will not cure it. It may take a few weeks or longer before you feel the full benefit of carbamazepine. Continue to take carbamazepine even if you feel well. Do not stop taking carbamazepine without talking to your doctor, even if you experience side effects such as unusual changes in behavior or mood. If you have a seizure disorder and you suddenly stop taking carbamazepine, your seizures may become worse. Your doctor will probably decrease your dose gradually.
Carbamazepine is also sometimes used to treat mental illnesses, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, drug and alcohol withdrawal, restless legs syndrome, diabetes insipidus, certain pain syndromes, and a disease in children called chorea. Talk to your doctor about the possible risks of using this medication for your condition.
This medication may be prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
Talk to your doctor about drinking grapefruit juice while taking this medicine.
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember it. However, if it is almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one.
loss of contact with reality
yellowing of the skin or eyes
Carbamazepine may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online [at http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch] or by phone [1-800-332-1088].
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature, away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). Throw away any medication that is outdated or no longer needed. Talk to your pharmacist about the proper disposal of your medication.
In case of overdose, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. If the victim has collapsed or is not breathing, call local emergency services at 911.
shaking of a part of your body that you cannot control
irregular or slowed breathing
rapid or pounding heartbeat
Before having any laboratory test, tell your doctor and the laboratory personnel that you are taking carbamazepine.
Carbamazepine can interfere with the results of home pregnancy tests. Talk to your doctor if you think you might be pregnant while you are taking carbamazepine. Do not try to test for pregnancy at home.
The extended-release tablet does not dissolve in the stomach after swallowing. It slowly releases the medicine as it passes through your digestive system. You may notice the tablet coating in your stool.
Do not let anyone else take your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.
Last Revised - 07/16/2012
AHFS® Consumer Medication Information. © Copyright, 2013. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., 7272 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland. All Rights Reserved. Duplication for commercial use must be authorized by ASHP.