This information is relevant to people who live in the UK.
Do epilepsy medicines cause side-effects?
All medicines can cause side-effects, including epilepsy medicines. Side-effects are unwanted symptoms caused by medicines. When you get your prescription, it should, by law include a package leaflet which lists the possible side-effects. The risk of getting side-effects varies from person to person.
Some people have told us that their side-effects have lessened over time, as their body has got used to taking their epilepsy medicines.
What should I do if I get side-effects?
If you have side-effects that continue, talk to your GP or epilepsy specialist. They might make changes to your epilepsy medicine to reduce the side-effects.
If you are driving or working with machinery, check the package leaflet to see if certain side-effects could make this unsafe for you.
The Yellow Card Scheme
Either you or your GP can report your side-effects to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) by using the Yellow Card Scheme. You can do this by:
- Picking up a Yellow Card from your GP surgery or local pharmacy
- Filling in a Yellow Card online.
- Calling the Yellow Card freephone hotline: 0808 100 3352
Reporting side-effects to the MHRA can help make sure that medicines are made safer in the future.
Possible effects of epilepsy medicine on other things
Some epilepsy medicines can affect bone health. Visit our page about osteoporosis and epilepsy to find out more.
Some epilepsy medicines make some types of contraception work less well than they should. And some types of contraception make lamotrigine work less effectively. Visit our section on contraception to find out more.
Possible effects of other things on epilepsy medicine
Medicines to treat other conditions
Some medicines used to treat conditions other than epilepsy can increase the risk of having seizures. They might lower your resistance to seizures. Or they may interact with your epilepsy medicines, making them work less well, or causing more side-effects.
If you are going to take any prescribed medicine or over-the-counter medicine, always check with your GP or pharmacist first. This is to make sure they won’t affect your epilepsy or treatment.
Below are some examples of these medicines. There are others.
Some research suggests that eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice could increase your chances of having unwanted side-effects from some epilepsy medicines. This is because a chemical that is naturally found in grapefruit can cause you to have higher levels of these medicines in your body. If you have any concerns about this, talk to your GP or pharmacist.
The medicines that can be affected by grapefruit are:
If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. If you are unable to access the internet, please contact our Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone on 0808 800 5050.
Epilepsy Action would like to thank thank Dr John Paul Leach, consultant neurologist, Southern General Hospital, Glasgow for his contribution.
Dr John Paul Leach has declared no conflict of interest.
This information has been produced under the terms of Epilepsy Action's information quality standards.
- Updated May 2017To be reviewed May 2020