Gabapentin is a pharmaceutical medication available in capsules, tablets, extended release tablets and as an oral solution. It works by mimicking the action of the GABA neurotransmitter, an important regulator of the neural activity within the brain. Gabapentin is an effective inhibitor for abnormally high levels of activity in the brain that can cause a variety of neurological symptoms. This inhibiting action allows its use in treating a wide range of nerve-related disorders. Patients typically begin with a low dosage of gabapentin and taper up to the full dose over a few weeks; a similar taper-down process is required for patients discontinuing the use of this powerful medication.
Uses for Gabapentin
Gabapentin is typically prescribed for neurological pain and seizure disorders. It is frequently used to treat neuropathic pain and can be effective in managing severe or chronic back pain due to spinal injury or dysfunction. Gabapentin has been used to treat the following conditions:
• Neuropathic pain
• Chronic or acute back pain
• Focal seizures
• Mixed seizure disorders
• Neuropathy caused by diabetes
• Trigeminal neuralgia
• Phantom limb pain
• Involuntary eye movements in adults and children
• Pain from multiple sclerosis
• Hot flashes
Due to its effectiveness in treating pain-related conditions, gabapentin is often used in conjunction with narcotic medications to relieve discomfort after surgical procedures. In this context, it can help to prevent habituation and potential addiction to narcotic pain relievers.
Patients allergic to gabapentin or to related medications should not use it. Additionally, patients should inform their physicians if they are being treated for or develop the following conditions:
• Cardiovascular difficulties, including heart disease
• Liver disease
• Kidney disease
Gabapentin can be passed through breast milk, so women should avoid breast-feeding while taking this medication. Patients with mood disorders should be carefully monitored, and any worsening of their condition should be promptly reported to the attending physician.
Drug Interactions with Gabapentin
Gabapentin can interact with a number of prescription and nonprescription medications. These medications include but are not limited to the following:
• Narcotic pain relievers, including hydrocodone and morphine
• Certain antacids
Patients should inform their doctor if they are currently taking any of these medications in order to minimize complications due to the use of gabapentin. Alcohol can amplify the drowsiness caused by gabapentin and should be avoided by patients using the medication.
Gabapentin can cause a number of minor and serious side effects. Common side effects include the following:
• Fatigue, sleepiness or dizziness
• Gastrointestinal effects, including nausea, vomiting, heartburn, constipation and diarrhea
• Weight gain
• Blurred vision and rapid eye movements
• Minor flu-like symptoms
Serious side effects should be reported to the attending physician immediately. These include the following:
• Rash or itching
• Swollen throat or hoarseness
• Abnormal swelling of the face, tongue, lips or eyes
These side effects of gabapentin use can cause difficulty swallowing or breathing and may require immediate medical attention.
Used properly under the supervision of a physician, gabapentin can be a valuable tool in treating chronic or acute back pain.
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