Bipolar disorders, convulsions and migraines are treated with valproic acid and its derivates like divalproex in the form of oral drugs. The drugs are transformed to valproic acid inside the stomach. Scientists have not clearly understood the procedure valproic acid follows but popularly it is believed that it becomes effective when concentrations of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) get augmented in the brain. Known as the dipropylacetic acid it is a carboxylic acid known also by the designated name 2-propylpentanoic acid.
If you are allergic to medications that have ingredients of valproic acid or even valproic acid itself or any other remedies that have been prescribed for, then you must let the doctor know before you begin taking valproic acid. Your pharmacist can supply you a list of the ingredients. The doctor must also know about all the prescribed or non-prescribed medications you might be taking which includes herbal products, vitamins and nutritional supplements.
Valproic acid is not prescribed to any person who has suffered a urea cycle disorder. This is one of the disorders in a group where protein from foods cannot be changed to energy. Your doctor must also know if anyone else in the family suffered urea disorder or if a baby in the family died of unknown causes in the first few months of life.
Some of the other conditions that the doctor must know about before he prescribes valproic acid to you are varied and many. Any episodes of extreme tiredness or irritability, any confusion and loss of ability to understand or vomiting included especially if these occurred during pregnancy or postnatal should be brought to the doctor's notice.
If you have suffered a coma, mental retardation or had difficulty in coordinating your movements should also be reported to the doctor and also if you suffer from HIV or contracted a virus known as cytomegalovirus (CMV) that can weaken the immune system. Any kidney disease or hyperlipidemia (excess fats in the blood) must also be reported.
In case you are scheduled for surgery, even dental surgery, the surgeon or dentist need to know you are taking valproic acid. Do not take the medication if you are breast feeding.
Valproic acid can make you drowsy so driving a car or working with machinery should be avoided. The medication causes drowsiness and taking alcohol will worsen the effect.
One important aspect you need to keep in mind is that valproic acid can change mental health in unknown ways and one is that you might become suicidal. You might plan to harm or kill yourself while taking valproic acid for mental illness, epilepsy or other illness.
In clinical tests it was observed that a number of adults and children under five years of age showed a tendency to suicide during their treatment with antiepileptic like valproic acid. Some others thought of suicide as early as one week after treatment began with the medication.
The risk is that your mental health could change with valproic acid but there is also a possibility that your condition could worsen without the medication when your condition remains untreated. Your doctor and you will have to decide which out of the two the bigger risk is.
If any of the following symptoms are experienced, you, your family or caregiver need to inform the doctor immediately. Panic attacks, new or worsening irritability, agitation and restlessness, anxiety, depression, difficulty in falling asleep, any aggressive or angry behaviour, violent or dangerous impulses, abnormally excited mood, withdrawal from friends and family and having suicidal thoughts, talking about hurting yourself and preoccupation with death, giving away prized possessions and any other changes in behaviour could be some of the dangerous side-effects of the medication and so should be dealt with by a doctor. In case you are not able to seek treatment by yourself your caregivers and family should be able to recognize the symptoms and secure relief for you.
Valproic acid is used for treating some types of seizures, epileptic and other disorders. Bipolar disorders causing acute mania are also treated with this medication.
Take the medication strictly according to prescription. Also follow the direction on the prescription label and take neither too little or too much of the medication. You need to take the medication with a full glass of water and continue to drink lots of water during the treatment. In case you do not take enough fluids the dose may have to be altered. The valproic acid in liquid form should be measured in a proper measuring device for liquid medications. The medication should not be measured in a cup or spoon so ask your pharmacist to help you get the proper device.
A liver function test will have to be taken regularly to ensure that the medication is not causing harmful effects.
Even if you feel better you must not stop taking valproic acid without first talking to your doctor. Suddenly stopping the medication can increase seizures. It should be a gradual decrease. Do not bite, crush or chew the capsule but swallow it whole as it might cause irritation in the mouth and throat if broken. You should also wear a medical alert tag or carry an ID that states you are taking valproic acid. All medical caregivers who treat you should know you take seizure medicine.
Valproic acid depresses activities in certain parts of the brain and suppresses the neurons that cause abnormality leading to seizures.
Herbal medicines like kola or ma huang could cause the central nervous system to get stimulated. Valerian and kava kava could cause more drowsiness. St. John wort could increase the medicine to react sensitively to the sun. It is advisable to replace zinc and selenium. In case valproic acid has resulted in liver toxicity and overdose then a carnitine replacement is given intravenously. Carnitine is also administered to children who take multiple seizure medicines. Epileptic patients on a ketogenic diet are also given carnitine.
Liquid valproic acid should not be mixed with beverages and carbonated drinks as it could irritate the throat and mouth. Alcohol, on the other hand increases the sedative effect of the medication besides affecting brain functions. Minimize exposure to the sun as the medication could cause photosensitivity.
Repetitive seizures are possible if valproic acid is withdrawn suddenly. The seizures are difficult to control once triggered off.
Valproic acid should be stored away from heat and moisture at room temperature.