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What is Topiramate? - Uses, Side Effects & Drug Class

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson is going to cover a medication known as topiramate. First, you'll learn about its major drug class, then its important uses, and finally potential side effects you should be on the lookout for.

Topiramate

Jack almost drowned in a pool today. No, he didn't jump in. He didn't trip. It wasn't an attempted murder either. It completely took over his body. There was nothing he could do. He fell in and was almost no more. Luckily, someone stepped in to save his life.

What was 'it'? What led to Jack's near death experience? Let's find out as we learn a bit more about a medication known by its generic name of topiramate or its brand name of Topamax.

Drug Class

Topiramate belongs to a general class of medication known as anticonvulsants. An anticonvulsant is a medication that is used to treat or prevent seizures. Seizures are biochemical events in the brain that lead to the abnormal discharges of neuronal (nerve cell) signals. This leads to a giant biochemical mess in the brain that, in turn, leads to some very unfortunate and uncontrollable signs and symptoms. People with seizures can experience everything from episodes of staring out into space to memory loss to violent shaking and jerking. It just depends on what kind of seizure is happening.

Uses

By now, you may have guessed why Jack almost drowned. Jack had a seizure as he was stepping into the pool. He had no control of his body. He didn't even know he'd had a seizure as he'd never had one before. Now Jack is taking topiramate to control his seizures. The types of seizures topiramate is mainly used to treat include:

  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizures, these are seizures that involve a person's entire body; where the body first stiffens and then the arms and legs jerk rapidly.
  • Partial onset seizures, those that only involve one part of the brain.
  • Seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, which is a condition where a person's severe epilepsy (recurrent seizures) starts in childhood.

Topiramate has other uses, beyond treating seizures. It can also be used to help prevent migraine headaches. Migraines are a very severe form of headaches that, beyond pain, can also involve everything from nausea to visual disturbances to a sensitivity to light and much more.

There are also numerous off-label uses for topiramate and they include treating cluster headaches and alcoholism.

Side Effects

Despite its many good uses, topiramate does have the potential for many side effects as well. Some of these side effects include the following:

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