How Lamictal (Lamotrigine) Works to Treat Bipolar and Seizure Disorders

side effects of lamictal

Verywell / Emily Roberts

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Lamictal (lamotrigine), a mood stabilizer and anticonvulsant, is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of any anxiety disorders, though it is approved to treat bipolar disorder and seizure disorders.

When Lamictal went through clinical trials, anxiety as a side effect was reported by 4 percent of participants, but 3 percent of the control group also reported anxiety, so this would be considered a rare side effect.

Even though treatment of anxiety isn't an approved use for Lamictal, some doctors do prescribe it to patients who have conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder, among others.

How Lamictal Works

Lamictal was one of the first medications, after lithium, to be approved by the FDA for use in treating bipolar disorder. Typically used to treat seizure disorders such as epilepsy,

Lamictal works by decreasing abnormal activity in the brain and seems to be particularly effective for the depressive episodes of bipolar disorder, as well as comorbid anxiety.

It is also sometimes used to treat other mood disorders that are not treatable with other medications, including borderline personality disorder, schizoaffective disorder, depression and depersonalization disorder.

Though Lamictal showed potential benefit in a small study of people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mood stabilizers as a whole are considered uncertain to treat PTSD, which is a trauma-related disorder.

Common Side Effects

These are the most common side effects of Lamictal:

  • Weight loss
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Loss of balance
  • Eye movement that you can't control
  • Trouble speaking
  • Missed or painful menstrual periods
  • Double vision
  • Concentration problems
  • Appetite loss
  • Hair loss (rare, but occurs in some individuals)

These side effects may go away in time, but if they don't or they're bothersome, contact your doctor.

Serious Side Effects

Call your doctor right away if you experience any of these serious side effects while taking Lamictal:

  • Chest pain
  • Stiff neck
  • Passing out
  • Abnormal seizure activity
  • Swelling of your hands, feet, arms, or legs
  • Headache
  • Light sensitivity

Precautions Regarding Lamictal

Discuss your health history in detail with your doctor before beginning Lamictal. Potential issues to be aware of include:

  • An allergy to lamotrigine or any other ingredients found in Lamictal.
  • Lamictal can interact with other medications, whether they're over-the-counter, prescription, or simple vitamins and supplements. Be sure to tell your doctor everything you are taking so your doses can be adjusted or monitored if necessary.
  • If you become pregnant while using Lamictal, let your doctor know right away.
  • Drinking alcohol can add to the drowsiness you may already feel from Lamictal.
  • Because of its tendency to make you feel drowsy, especially until you get used to it, don't drive or operate heavy machinery until you have been on Lamictal for a while and are sure of how it affects you.
  • Tell your doctor if you have ever had an autoimmune disease like lupus, a blood disorder, or a kidney or liver disease.
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Article Sources

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  1. Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Lamictal (Lamotrigine) Tablets. Lamictal (Lamotrigine) Chewable Dispersible Tablets. Updated 2005.

  2. Butler M, Urosevic S and Desai P. Treatment for Bipolar Disorder in Adults: A Systematic Review. Comparative Effectiveness Review No. 208. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. August 2018.

  3. Zavodnick AD, Ali R. Lamotrigine in the treatment of unipolar depression with and without comorbidities: a literature review. Psychiatr Q. 2012;83(3):371-83. doi:10.1007/s11126-012-9208-4

  4. MedlinePlus. Lamotrigine. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Updated January 15, 2019.