Neuropathy is a reasonably common, but it is a difficult condition to live with. There are various pharmaceutical drugs available to help people find relief, but few have been found to be 100% effective. One treatment that many people say they have found a degree of relief from, however, is through the use of anticonvulsants.
What Are Anticonvulsants?
An anticonvulsant is a type of medication that is prescribed to people with epilepsy, as it helps reduce the frequency and severity of a seizure. Interestingly, as with many other drugs, physicians have found that the medication also has a positive impact on other medical conditions.
For instance, it is now known that anticonvulsant drugs are effective in treating bipolar disorder. Now, there is a suggestion that they may also be beneficial for treating neuropathy.
How Anticonvulsants Work
The drug works by influencing different receptors in the brain. This means that it may also change the way the brain makes the body feel pain. This type of medication works in the central nervous system, essentially sedating the user to a certain degree.
The drugs either enhance inhibition or decrease excitation. More specifically, anticonvuslant drugs can change the way electrical activity takes place in the neurons of the brain. They affect the cell membrane's different channels, such as the chloride, calcium, potassium, and sodium channels.
The reported benefit is that anticonvulsants help reduce the pain. However, physicians have stated that these drugs will not eliminate the pain, helping only to make it more tolerable.
Physicians who prescribe anticonvulsants as a form of treatment for neuropathy expect to see results within six months, after which people need to come off the drug. If they then relapse, and the pain becomes severe again, they can return to the drug treatment.
The level of pain relief varies depending on the individual.
There has been a recent Cochrane review that looked at ten different anticonvulsant drugs. The review examined studies conducted between 2009 and 2013, involving a total of 17,955 individual patients, and 91 individual studies. The studies, which were all randomized controlled, double blind, placebo controlled trials, looked at three different types of neuropathic conditions:
- Central neuropathic pain
- Postherpetic neuralgia
- Painful diabetic neuropathy
The reviewer look at both the clinical evidence of improvement and the subjective impressions of improvement.
The Cochrane review looked at 10 anticonvulsant drugs, but found that only pregabalin and gabapentin had positive effects. They were not able to tell which one of the two was more effective. The study also did not show who it would be most efficient for.
The Cochrane review did not find any statistically significant improvements for carbamazepine, even though this is an accepted neuropathic pain treatment.
Common Side Effects
One of the particular concerns with anticonvulsant medication is that it is associated with quite significant side effects. The most common side effects are:
- Weight gain
More serious side effects include thoughts of suicide and (worsening) depression.
There is a high chance of people experiencing side effects when taking anticonvulsant medication. Adverse effects, therefore, are relatively common although they do depend on the dosage. This is particularly true for those who take lacosamide or pregabalin.
Oxcarbazepine showed a statistically significant increase in the chance of someone developing a serious side effect. As a result of the common occurrence of side effects, and their potential seriousness, people must be properly monitored by their physician if they are to be prescribed anticonvulsant medication for neuropathy.
Who Should Use Anticonvulsant Therapy?
It is very common for people who experience neuropathic pain to experience analgesic failure. Unfortunately, it is not clear what type of patients would benefit the most from anticonvulsant medication, nor which type of medication, or at which dosage.
In fact, it is common for patients who do not experience benefits from one brand of drug, to find a different brand does change things. Most of the time, patients will need to be provided combination drug therapy. Usually, it is a case of trial and error until the most effective solution is found.
Anticonvulsant medications are prescription medication. Exactly how much they cost, therefore, will depend on where your medical team is and what type of insurance you have.
Getting Started With Anticonvulsants
Because anticonvulsants are prescription medication, it is important to only use them while consulting with a multidisciplinary team that includes a physician and a pain specialist. They will be able to determine which medication is most likely to be effective, and at what dosage. They can also monitor people for potential adverse side effects.
Alternative Treatment Methods
Conventionally, people are prescribed pharmaceutical drugs in order to deal with neuropathy. Anticonvulsants are one such example, but while they have had measured successes, they are associated with significant side effects.
Furthermore, people now prefer to take remedies that are natural, and that work holistically with the body itself. As such, they may be interested in treatment options such as acupuncture, TENS machines, and the Nerve Renew supplement instead.
Other options include:
Overall, experts agree that using gabapentin and/or pregabalin can be effective for treating neuropathy. However, it is not clear which of the two is more effective and why, regardless of the type of neuropathy that the patient suffers from. All types of drug therapies should only be used if the patient is under the care of a multidisciplinary, multifaceted team, while at the same time being active in self-managing the condition.
Patients and physicians must have a strong understanding of the vocational, social, psychological, and physical impact of neuropathy in order to determine not just how bad the situation is, but also whether the treatment is proving to be beneficial. For many people, taking a supplement like Nerve Renew, either on its own or as a supplement to anticonvulsants, is a much better option.