Gabapentin is a medicine used in the treatment of certain types of epilepsy . It successfully avoids the crises and convulsions characteristic of the disease. Our body is not able to metabolize it, so it is eliminated mainly by urine.
Currently, we also find it to relieve pain (analgesic) associated with certain neurological diseases. In this category we include the illness caused by the herpes virus in adults (herpes zoster) and for the restless legs syndrome ( Willis-Ekbom disease ). These disorders are usually associated with nerve damage.
Pharmacology of gabapentin
This drug alters the levels of GABA in various areas of our brain, increasing them . GABA is one of the most important neurotransmitters and is unique to mammals. A neurotransmitter is a substance that acts in the process of synapse or transmission of information between neurons.
Normally, this substance inhibits neuronal activity, causing a sensation of relaxation and pleasure. Another vital function that fulfills is the stimulation of synthesis of the growth hormone, used to develop and renew our tissues.
GABA levels increase when we sleep or after being released from stress. When it is altered, certain diseases or disorders appear. Therefore, the pharmaceutical industry has developed compounds that tend to increase or decrease the amount of GABA to regulate it. When developing these compounds we try to imitate the chemical structure of GABA and act in the same regions of our brain.
Usually, gabapentin appears mixed with other substances inside a prolonged-release tablet. It is taken orally, taking care not to chew it and following the doctor’s recommendations. Some of the most common trade names are Gabapentin, Horizant and Nuerotin. The duration or effectiveness of the medication is usually 5 to 7 hours.
When adding this type of substance to the treatment, we must inform the medical team if we present any type of allergy or hypersensitivity to gabapentin. Also, we will inform the doctor if we have any disease, we have other treatments or, in the case of women, if they are pregnant.
So far, this type of medication has had satisfactory results but, like any drug, can lead to side effects . Some of the most common are:
- Eating disorders such as anorexia and, on other occasions, increased appetite. Patients sometimes gain weight slightly.
- Hostility, depression , anxiety , confusion and emotional instability, nervousness and alterations in their behavior and mood. There are some studies that affirm that, in epileptic patients, the suicidal tendency increases or is incited during the treatment.
- Respiratory disorders. Including an increased risk of pneumonia, cough, rhinitis, pharyngitis, bronchitis and dyspnea (shortness of breath or difficulty breathing). There are individuals who have also presented certain symptoms of influenza and viral infections.
- Disorders related to sleep, both insomnia and drowsiness.
- Vomiting with or without nausea, dizziness, fatigue or asthenia (feeling of generalized weakness physically and psychologically).
- Diseases related to dental anomalies and gingivitis.
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- Tremors, headaches, spasms and alteration of the normal articulation of language (dysarthria). These manifestations may be the result of hyperkinesia or abnormal increase in muscle function or activity.
- Ocular disorders among which we include amblyopia (loss of vision due to a decrease in the sensitivity of the retina).
- Incontinence and impotence.
- Peripheral and facial edema , acne, rashes and spots all over the body, paresthesia (skin tingling, sensation of cold or heat). Pruritus (itching or desire to scratch an area) is usual in this type of skin conditions.
- It is also common to find high blood pressure and vasodilation in patients.
- Coordination problems.
Unlike the group of benzodiazepine medications, gabapentin has no addictive potential, individuals do not develop dependency on the drug.