Some of the more common side effects of valproic acid includes nausea and vomiting.
Hair loss, or alopecia, can also occur with valproic acid use.
Liver function abnormalities can remain asymptomatic or progress to hepatotoxicity with accompanying jaundice with valproic acid, more often during the initial phase of drug use. Checking liver enzymes like AST/ALT before beginning treatment and at regular periods thereafter is recommended.
Cases of acute pancreatitis have been linked to valproate. It is a dose and time-independent phenomenon that may occur during any phase of therapy. Varying blood dyscrasias like anemia, leukopenia, and thrombocytopenia may also occur; monitor a complete blood count (CBC) regularly for patients using valproate.
Valproate may cause weight gain with accompanying insulin resistance that may lead to metabolic syndrome.
Oedema is the UK spelling for edema but its meaning remains the same. Patients on valproic acid should be aware that peripheral edema, or swelling of their extremities, may occur while taking this drug.
Related to the attribute listed above, appetite increase may lead to increased food intake and ultimately weight gain.
A common neurotoxic side effect of valproate are tremors. Underlying anxiety or stimulant use may worsen this effect. In-utero exposure to valproic acid is associated with neural-tube defects such as spina bifida because it acts as a folate antagonist. For this reason valproic acid is generally considered a teratogen and should not be used in patients trying to become or who currently are pregnant.
In contrast to other antiepileptic drugs such as carbamazepine or phenytoin that act as cytochrome P450 inducers, valproic acid is a CYP450 inhibitor. This means it can increase the circulating amounts of other medications by slowing the liver enzymes that would normally metabolize the drugs. Also be aware when using valproic acid in patients with liver disease that dosages must be decreased.
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