Topamax (topiramate) is a prescription anticonvulsant medication that is used for treating migraine headaches and preventing seizures. Studies indicate that Topamax works by altering either the action or production of brain neurotransmitters, helping to control abnormal activity that may cause seizures. Studies have also shown that the drug may have an effect on the nerves themselves, contribute to suppress misfiring.
Topamax received FDA approval for treating seizures in 1996 and received approval for the prevention of migraines in 2004. When used in people 12 years and older, Topamax has been proven effective in helping to decrease the number of migraines; however, it does not help alleviate headaches that have already started.
There are some warnings concerning the use of Topamax due to the severity and potential problems associated with the side effects of the drug. The following are some of the most severe issues reported:
- Eye Problems – Topamax has been known to cause a rapid decrease in vision that is often accompanied by redness and pain. It has also been associated with a fluid blockage in the eye, causing secondary angle closure glaucoma. If these conditions are not treated properly, they can result in a permanent loss of vision.
- Metabolic Acidosis – This is a condition in which acid levels in the blood increase. Symptoms often include decreased appetite, irregular heartbeat, lethargy, and confusion or an inability to think clearly. If not treated correctly, it can cause a weakening or softening of the bones causing osteoporosis, decreased growth rate in children and kidney stones.
- Decreased Sweating – Topamax can cause an increase in body temperature due to decreased sweating. This can result in a fever, which may require hospitalization for some if the temperature is too high.
- Mental Problems – Some people taking this drug have experienced increased or new depression and anxiety, insomnia, mania, panic attacks, aggression and suicidal thoughts or actions.
It is also recommended that Topamax not is used by people who have:
- Breathing problems
- Kidney disease
- History of kidney stones
- Conditions currently requiring dialysis
- Glaucoma or any other conditions of the eye
- History of suicidal thoughts or depression
Topamax and Pregnancy
There are also considerations for pregnancy when using Topamax. The drug can decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills, so it is recommended that condoms or other birth control methods be added to your current birth control to prevent pregnancy.
There is also an increased risk of some birth defects when Topamax is taken during pregnancy, including cleft palate and cleft lip, which are malformations of the roof of the mouth or the upper lip. Additionally, for those who develop metabolic acidosis, the condition can cause harm to the unborn baby.
If you become pregnant or are trying to get pregnant, you should speak with your doctor about alternative medications. However, you should never stop taking a medication without speaking with your physician first. Topamax also passes into breast milk, although it is not currently known whether this can cause problems with your baby.
It is also recommended that women who become pregnant while taking Topamax register with the North American Antiepileptic Drug Pregnancy Registry to assist with the collection of information concerning the safety of taking these kinds of medications while pregnant.
While Topamax has been proven effective in helping with preventing seizures and migraine headaches, there are also several serious side effects that can have long-term results. If you or someone you love has suffered from irreversible side effects while taking Topamax, you should contact an attorney. He or she will be able to help you determine whether compensation may be available to you.