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.

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,

Although the exact mechanism of action is not entirely known, Lamictal works to some degree by decreasing abnormal excitatory 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 symptoms in conditions 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 generally not a mainstay in the treatment of PTSD, which is a trauma-related disorder.

Common Side Effects

Lamictal is generally a well-tolerated medication. That said, the drug needs to be titrated up in dosage very slowly because there are potentially very serious skin reactions that are more likely to occur if your body gets exposed to too much of the medication too quickly.

Other side effects of Lamictal include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of balance
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • 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.

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.

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