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Other names: AEDs, antiepileptics, antiseizure

What are Anticonvulsants?

Anticonvulsants (antiepileptics or AEDs) helps to normalise the way nerve impulses travel along the nerve cells which helps prevent or treat seizures. When the brain is working normally the nerve cells talk to each other using controlled electrical signals from one nerve cell to another. This tells the body to do everything it needs or wants to do.

During a seizure there is a change in the level of nerve cell electrical signals from a normal level to an excessive or abnormal amount of nerve signals. This increased nerve activity is responsible for the signs and symptoms of a seizure. What causes the change is nerve impulses can be the result of an injury to part of the brain, stroke, brain tumor, genetic causes, metabolic problems or toxicity issues. Anticonvulsants can also be used to treat nerve pain and bipolar disorder.

How they work

Anticonvulsants keep the nerve cell impulses to a normal level so they don’t become excessive and uncontrolled, which is why they are used in seizure disorders and epilepsy. The way anticonvulsants control the nerve impulses is not fully understood but is thought to be by their action on neurotransmitters like GABA, or acting on receptors such as glutamate or by changing the electrical channels in the nerve cell.

What they treat

Anticonvulsants stabilize the level of nerve cell impulses and are used for a range of conditions including

  • epilepsy
  • seizure disorders
  • nerve pain (neuropathic pain)
  • bipolar disorder

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.