Carbamazepine is a medicine used to treat epilepsy.
It can also be taken for nerve pain caused by diabetes (peripheral neuropathy) or if you have a painful condition of the face called trigeminal neuralgia.
Carbamazepine is occasionally used to treat bipolar disorder when other medicines have not worked.
This medicine is only available on prescription. It comes as tablets, a liquid that you drink and suppositories (medicine that you push gently into your anus).
- It’s usual to take carbamazepine between 1 and 4 times a day. You can take it with or without food.
- Common side effects of carbamazepine include feeling sleepy, dizziness, headaches and feeling or being sick. These are usually mild and go away by themselves.
- It usually takes a couple of weeks for carbamazepine to work.
- When taking carbamazepine for epilepsy, it’s best to stick to the same brand. If your usual brand is not available, talk to your doctor.
Who can and cannot take carbamazepine
Carbamazepine can be taken by adults and children aged 1 month and over.
Carbamazepine is not suitable for some people. Tell your doctor before starting the medicine if you have:
- ever had an allergic reaction to carbamazepine or any other medicine in the past
- a heart condition
- a blood disorder called porphyria
- ever had problems with your bone marrow
How and when to take carbamazepine
Carbamazepine is a prescription medicine. It’s important to take it as instructed by your doctor.
How much you take will depend on what you are taking it for.
You’ll usually start on a low dose of 100mg to 200mg, taken once or twice a day. This will be increased over several weeks to the usual dose.
The usual dose for:
- epilepsy – 800mg to 1200mg, taken as 1 or 2 doses
- nerve pain – 600mg to 800mg, taken as 1 or 2 doses
- bipolar disorder – 400mg to 600mg, taken as 1 or 2 doses
In children, the dose of carbamazepine will depend on the weight of your child. Your doctor will be able to prescribe the right dose for your child.
How to take it
If you take carbamazepine twice a day, try to space your doses evenly through the day. For example, first thing in the morning, and in the evening. You can take it with or without food.
Tablets – you can take tablets with or without food. Swallow the tablets whole with a drink of water. The tablets have a score line to help you break the tablet in half if you have difficulties swallowing the tablet whole.
Liquid – to take carbamezapine liquid shake the bottle before you measure out your dose. The medicine will come with a plastic syringe or spoon to help you measure out the right dose. If you don’t have one, ask your pharmacist for one. Do not use a kitchen teaspoon as it will not give the right amount.
Suppositories – take the wrapping off and push a suppository gently into your anus. Read the instructions in the leaflet inside the package. They will explain how to use the suppository.