23rd Nov 2022
Valproic acid (VPA) is an anticonvulsant drug used to treat bipolar disorder, epilepsy, and migraines . It comes in the form of tablets, syrups, and capsules. Side effects of taking valproic acid can include drowsiness, headaches, rashes, and constipation . Side effects can range from mild to severe.
VPA is used to treat epilepsy and prevent epileptic seizures. The types of seizure VPA helps with include:
It is also used to help regulate mood in people with bipolar disorder and to prevent migraine headaches. Valproic acid is one of several types of valproate medications used to treat migraines and also includes valproate sodium and vaproate semisodium.
VPA is an anticonvulsant or antiepileptic drug. It treats epilepsy and migraines by regulating and limiting electrical signals in your brain.
VPA also increases the production of a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your brain. This blocks some nerve signals in your brain and has a calming effect which helps to regulate mood in people with bipolar disorder.
Valproic acid comes in tablets, capsules, and syrups. Your daily dose will depend on many things such as what you are taking it for, your age, and your weight . Take your dosage at roughly the same time every day. You do not need to take it with food, however, this can prevent the medication from upsetting your stomach .
Take the exact dose prescribed by your doctor and ask them if you have any concerns about which form you should be taking or your dosage. Do not stop taking VPA, even if you no longer experience any symptoms. Your doctor may want to gradually reduce the dose you are taking.
If you miss a dose, you should take it as soon as you realize it. If it is too close to when you would normally take your next dose, it is okay to skip your missed dose and carry on taking it as normal. Never take more doses than your prescription to catch up on missed doses.
This will depend on your dosage and how long you have been taking valproic acid. If you are concerned about how long it will stay in your system, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.
Mild/common side effects:
Tell your doctor if these become a daily problem and do not go away
Severe side effects:
These are very rare; speak to your doctor as soon as possible or seek urgent medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms or those listed in the WARNING section of the label.
Your doctor will ask you some questions before prescribing valproic acid. This is to ensure you are being given the correct dose and if there are any better alternative medications.
There are certain medical conditions that may lead to adverse side effects if VPA is taken. These include:
Mitochondrial disorders caused by mutations in mitochondrial DNA polymerase-gamma (POLG; eg, Alpers-Huttenlocher Syndrome) and children under 2 years of age who are suspected of having a POLG-related disorder.
For women with epilepsy, it is not recommended that you take valproic acid when pregnant for. It has been shown to increase birth defects in children born when mothers take it during pregnancy.
If you plan on becoming pregnant soon or are currently pregnant, speak to your doctor about an alternative medication. You will only be prescribed VPA during pregnancy if your doctor does not think there is any alternative, or if the benefits outweigh the risks.
It is considered safe to breastfeed whilst taking valproic acid. However, if you notice any unusual changes in your baby’s breastfeeding habits, as well as yellowing of the skin, dark urine, and abnormal bruising then you need to tell your doctor immediately.
You do not have to change your diet when taking valproic acid. It is recommended that you carry on eating as normal. Be cautious when drinking alcohol as valproic acid may change your tolerance and it can make you drowsier than normal.
There are some medications that can change the way valproic acid works or make the side effects worse. Tell your doctor if you are taking any of the following and they may wish to monitor you more closely or change your dosages.
Valproic acid should be kept at room temperature in a dry environment (i.e., not in the bathroom where it can get humid).
Valproic acid and any other medication should be kept in a locked cupboard out of reach of children and pets. It is important you check that the packaging has a child-locked lid. If it does not, then take extra precautions to make sure children do not have exposure to valproic acid.
Do not dispose of the medication in general waste areas where children and pets may have access. If you do have leftover doses, speak to a pharmacist about the best way to dispose of them (although your doctor will typically prescribe the exact amount).
Taking too much valproic acid can result in an overdose.
The amount of valproic acid that could result in an overdose will depend on your age and weight, among other factors. Never take more than you have been prescribed by a medical professional.
If you suspect you or someone you know has taken too much, you should seek advice from your pharmacist, doctor, or at the emergency room. If someone has taken an overdose and has fallen unconscious and will not wake up, or is having seizures, you should call 911 immediately.
This page does not offer medical advice. See more