Healthy Living

The Truth About Gabapentin, a Popular Drug for Patients with Fibromyalgia

The Truth About Gabapentin

Gabapentin is one of the most popular drugs prescribed for patients with fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic and complex condition that causes discomfort, fatigue, pain and deep exhaustion as well as a variety of other symptoms.As its name suggests, fibromyalgia mainly affects the soft tissues of the body.

The name fibromyalgia is derived from fibrous tissues (such as tendons and ligaments) and "algia," which means pain. Fibromyalgia is not like arthritis, which tends to cause swelling and pain in the joints; in most cases, it causes pain in soft tissues around the joints and throughout the rest of the body. Since fibromyalgia produces very few symptoms that can be perceived openly, has come to be nicknamed as an "Invisible disease."

Although it is more common in adult women, fibromyalgia can also affect children, the elderly and men.The pain caused by fibromyalgia usually consists of generalized pain or burning. Many times, it is described as a pain from head to toe. How severe it is, it varies from day to day, and it can change places, becoming more severe in those parts of the body that have to perform harder physical activity throughout the day. Body parts such as the neck, feet and shoulders for example.

In many cases, the effects of fibromyalgia and the discomfort it causes are intense enough to interfere with daily and ordinary tasks, while in others, it only causes them a slight discomfort. Also, the exhaustion produced by fibromyalgia varies from person to person. It goes from a sensation of slight fatigue, to a level of exhaustion compared to the ones given by diseases like the flu.

Fortunately, fibromyalgia does not create disability nor does it affect longevity. Currently, there is not an official statistic stating the percentage of the population currently affected by fibromyalgia in America. Some researches state that around 10 million people are affected by this disease in a lower or higher level. At least 80% of these people are women which are the most commonly affected by this disease.

So far, fibromyalgia is not considered more common in any kind of race. It can affect anyone regardless of the color of their skin.

Treatment for fibromyalgia and the popularity of Gabapentin

Treatment for fibromyalgia is known to be quite expensive. Nevertheless, one of the most popular drugs to treat fibromyalgia is Gabapentin which is a generic of Neurontin. This drug is frequently prescribed for fibromyalgia since it has been proved that Gabapentin reduces pain considerably and can be very effective for some cases. Nevertheless, it is important to mention the number of drawbacks it has.

In the following sections, the most important advantages and disadvantages of consuming Gabapentin will be exposed in order to weigh if it is worth taking it or not. Some of the most important aspects that need to be taken into account when starting to take Gabapentin are these:

Advantages of taking Gabapentin

Its effectiveness against fibromyalgia symptoms cannot be denied, as this drug has proved to be a lifesaver working as an antiepileptic and anticonvulsant. It is also commonly compared to the drug called Lyrica.

Among some of the positive effects provided by Gabapentin, these are some that can be mentioned:

  • Nerve pain
  • Migraines
  • Seizures
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Restless legs

The most important effect offered by Gabapentin is its solid performance as a pain reducer. However, there are some negative effects that may counter this huge plus that pain reduction represents.

Disadvantages of taking Gabapentin

These are some of the most common issues people taking Gabapentin have to go through in most cases:

Other side effects people with fibromyalgia that are taking Gabapentin may encounter are nausea, loss of balance, swelling of the breasts and even blurred vision. Some people also tend to gain weight and have skin rashes. In some specific cases, people taking Gabapentin can develop high-blood pressure as well.

In some cases, especially during the strongest part of the effect, people may stick out their tongues without realizing it while speaking. Another side effect that may not be noticed is constant eye rolling. Also, making faces unexpectedly can be another effect that is not noticed.

The truth about Gabapentin

First of all, people looking to stop taking Gabapentin need to visit their doctor. In most cases, it can be dangerous to stop taking this medication all at once, the best option is to wean off slowly and reduce dosage progressively. One of the most popular patterns followed to reduce dosage when taking Gabapentin in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms (which can be horrible) is to reduce doses by 100 milligrams and after two weeks, reduce another 100 milligrams until the quantity of Gabapentin taken per day is completely eliminated.

Also, Gabapentin can have terrible side effects in unborn children if women take it while being pregnant. Previous studies have addressed that components of Gabapentin may interfere with the formation of brain synapses once the child is born.

Another relevant statistic that may be affected by people who take Gabapentin is the rate of suicides. The U.S Food and Drug Administration announced in 2008 that a warning should be labelled saying that its use may lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. This issue is called “suicidality.” Gabapentin was part of a long list that included all antiepileptic drugs including those used to treat migraines, psychiatric disorders, epilepsy and other conditions.

Effects may change depending on the patient

The decision to keep taking Gabapentin is up to each patient affected by fibromyalgia. For some people, negative side effects of taking this drug may outweigh the benefits it offers. Nevertheless, it is essential to highlight the importance of asking the doctor before making any kind of decision.

Physicians should always need to be notified about the decision, as they will always offer great suggestions on how to proceed, most likely implementing a reduction schedule in order to avoid the awful symptoms caused by withdrawal.