Carbamazepine

Sounds like 'car-bam-a-zee-pean'

Easy-to-read medicine information about carbamazepine – what is it, how to take carbamazepine safely and possible side effects.

Type of medicine

Also called

  • Belongs to a group of medicines known as anti-epileptic medication (to prevent fits)
  • Tegretol

What is carbamazepine?

  • Carbamazepine blocks certain kinds of nerve activity, and in this way reduces fits, relieves pain and helps with mood disorders.
  • Carbamazepine is used to:
    • Prevent epilepsy or fits.
    • Treat some types of pain, such as nerve pain involving the face, head and neck (trigeminal neuralgia).
    • Control some mood disorders.

Dose

  • The dose of carbamazepine will be different for different people.
  • Your doctor will start you on a low dose, and increase your dose slowly over a few weeks.
  • Always take your carbamazepine exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much carbamazepine to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.

How to take carbamazepine

  • Swallow your carbamazepine tablets with a glass of water.
  • Take carbamazepine at the same times each  day (usually 2 or 3 times a day).
  • You can take carbamazepine with or without food.
  • Carbamazepine is available as short-acting or immediate release tablets, or as long-acting or slow-release tablets. Ask your pharmacist if you are not sure which formulation you are taking.
  • The long-acting tablets must be swallowed whole. Do not crush or chew. This will release all the medication at once and cause side effects. 
  • Limit or avoid drinking alcohol while you are taking carbamazepine. It can increase your chance of side effects.
  • If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember that day.
  • But, if it is nearly time for your next dose (within 2 to 3 hours), just take the next dose at the right time. Do not take double the dose.
  • Keep taking carbamazepine regularly every day. Do not stop taking carbamazepine suddenly; speak to your doctor or nurse before stopping.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, carbamazepine can cause unwanted side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often unwanted side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effectsWhat should I do?
  • Feeling sleepy, drowsy or tired
  • Feeling dizzy, or faint
  • This is common when starting carbamazepine and may last a few hours after taking your dose
  • Be careful when driving or using tools until you know how this medicine affects you
  • Limit or avoid alcohol
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Problems with your eyesight – blurred vision or seeing double   
  • Be careful when driving or using tools 
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Feeling sick (nausea)
  • Stomach upset
  • Try taking carbamazepine with food
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Headache
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as skin rash, hives, itches, swelling of the face, mouth or lips, trouble breathing 
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine

Interactions

  • Carbamazepine may interact with a few medications and herbal supplements, so check with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • It may interact with medicines that are available without a prescription such as cough, cold and flu medication, or anti-allergy medication. Check with your pharmacist.

Learn more

Medsafe Consumer Information Sheet:
Tegretol

New Zealand Formulary Patient Information:
Carbamazepine

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist.