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Carbamazepine is an anticonvulsant drug, used to treat symptoms of epilepsy and neuropathic pain. It works by affecting pain messages travelling through the nerves to the brain, and by altering electrical activity in the brain.
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What is Carbamazepine?

Carbamazepine is an anticonvulsant drug. It is used primarily to control tonic or clonic seizures brought on by epilepsy. However, it can also be used to control certain types of neuropathic pain such as trigeminal neuralgia, as well as bipolar disorder.

Neuropathic pain is a chronic nerve pain condition stemming from damaged nerves. It is different to pain caused by tissue damage, such as a cut or bruise, and as a result does not respond to typical pain medication. There is evidence to suggest that some anticonvulsant drugs, such as Gabapentin and Carbamazepine, can help to treat neuropathic pain.

Carbamazepine extended release tablets are available only on prescription, and you must have a prescription from a GP before you buy Carbamazepine. However, we can also prescribe it to you online following a brief assessment. Carbamazepine is also available as an oral suspension and is sometimes known under the brand name Tegretol.

For more information on Carbamazepine, consult the patient information leaflet.

How it works

Anticonvulsant drugs affect electrical activity in the brain. It is not fully understood how this relates to neuropathic pain, but it is thought that drugs like Carbamazepine affect electrical signals that alter the way the body feels pain. As a result, the effects of neuropathic pain are reduced.

When Carbamazepine is used to treat trigeminal neuralgia, it may not begin to work straight away. It could be several weeks before you begin to feel the full effects of the medication.

Before you take it

Carbamazepine can increase your sensitivity to light and to the sun. Limit your time in the sun, use sun cream and wear protective clothing. If you experience sunburn or blistering, tell your doctor.

If you take Carbamazepine during pregnancy, it may harm an unborn baby. If you are prescribed Carbamazepine during pregnancy it is because your doctor feels that the benefits of taking it outweigh the risks.

This medication passes into breast milk. Make sure you ask your doctor before breastfeeding while taking this medication.

Carbamazepine may make you dizzy or drowsy. For your own safety, you should not attempt to drive, operate heavy machinery or do anything else that may require your full concentration before you are fully aware of how Carbamazepine affects you.

It’s possible that Carbamazepine may affect hormonal contraception in women. Discuss this with your doctor if this applies to you. You may need to use another form of contraception to protect you from pregnancy while taking Carbamazepine.

Carbamazepine may cause suicidal thoughts or actions, thoughts about suicide or thoughts of harming yourself. This generally only happens in a small number of patients. If you experience this, you must talk to your doctor or pharmacist immediately, as an alternative treatment may be required.

This drug should not be taken if you are allergic to the active ingredient carbamazepine or any other anticonvulsant medication such as oxcarbazepine, or if you are allergic to any tricyclic antidepressant such as amitriptyline.

You should speak with your doctor before taking Carbamazepine if you have ever experienced kidney problems, liver problems, heart problems or bone marrow problems.

Carbamazepine can interact with a number of other medications. If you are taking any of the following, you must consult your doctor before taking Carbamazepine:

  • Hormone Replacement Therapy drugs such as tibolone
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors for depression
  • Corticosteroids such as prednisolone or dexamethasone
  • Any medication that thins the blood such as aspirin or warfarin
  • Antifungal medication such as fluconazole
  • Antihistamines such as loratadine
  • Medicines used to treat hypothyroidism such as Levothyroxine
  • Tadalafil for erectile dysfunction

This is not a full list of warnings or drug interactions. For a complete list, consult the patient information leaflet.

Dosage Instructions

You must always take this medication exactly as prescribed. Never exceed the stated dose. If you are unsure of how much to take, consult your pharmacist or doctor.

The usual initial dose for adults suffering with trigeminal neuralgia or any other type of neuropathic pain is between 100 mg and 400 mg daily. Depending on your body’s response to the medication, your dosage may be adjusted to up to 800 mg per day, in divided doses (usually twice daily.) The maximum daily dose is 1600 mg.

Carbamazepine is for oral administration, and should be taken with plenty of liquid. Your tablets should not be crushed or chewed. Carbamazepine can be taken with meals or in between meals.

If you need to stop taking Carbamazepine, this should not be done suddenly. Your doctor will gradually reduce your dose over a period of several weeks to reduce the possibility of withdrawal symptoms.

If your pain does not improve, or gets worse, you should first consult your doctor.

Carbamazepine must be stored in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight and moisture. Keep it out of the reach of children and pets.

Common Side Effects of Carbamazepine

Like all medication, it’s possible for Carbamazepine to cause numerous side effects. These are usually mild to moderate in nature, and will typically go away on their own as your body becomes accustomed to the medication. These side effects may include:

  • An increased likelihood of contracting infections causing fever, sore throat, chills or mouth ulcers (this can indicate low white blood cells)
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever or skin rash
  • Tiredness or confusion
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Joint pain

Carbamazepine also carries a risk of more serious side effects. These are rare, but should you experience them you must stop taking this medicine and contact your doctor for advice. They include:

  • Pins and needles or tingling pain
  • Sharp, stabbing or burning pain
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes
  • Irregular or slow heartbeat
  • Sexual health problems - reduced fertility, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction
  • Taste disturbances
  • Amnesia
  • Conjunctivitis

Carbamazepine can also cause severe allergic reactions in some patients. This is very rare but if an allergic reaction occurs, it is an emergency and you must seek medical advice right away. Symptoms that you could experience include:

  • Swelling in the lips, tongue, throat, mouth or face
  • Difficulty breathing or speaking
  • Wheezing
  • Skin rash - itching, blistering, peeling or redness

This is not a full list of side effects. If you want to know more about side effects you may experience while taking Carbamazepine, refer to the patient information leaflet.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Carbamazepine suitable for children?

Carbamazepine can be prescribed to children over 12 years by a GP for a variety of conditions. We do not prescribe any medication to anyone under the age of 18.

I’m pregnant. Can I take Carbamazepine?

You should not take Carbamazepine while pregnant as there is an increased risk of harm to your unborn baby. However, if you are prescribed Carbamazepine while pregnant it is because your doctor feels that the benefits of taking it outweigh the risks. Always follow your doctor's instructions.

Will it affect my contraception?

Yes. Carbamazepine can reduce the efficacy of hormonal contraception in women, and may put you at greater risk of becoming pregnant. If you are taking Carbamazepine, you should take appropriate additional measures, such as using non-hormonal forms of contraception, if you want to avoid becoming pregnant.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take your missed dose of Carbamazepine as soon as you remember. If it’s nearly time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take your next dose as normal. Do not take two doses to make up for the missed dose.

What happens if I take too much?

If you believe you’ve taken too much Carbamazepine, contact your local A&E centre or hospital casualty department immediately. Symptoms of an overdose include vomiting, hallucinations, confusion, dilated pupils, muscle spasms and difficulty breathing.

More Information
Dosage Instructions Please see medicine label for the dosage instructions.