Gabapentin is a prescription drug that is used to treat various medical conditions such as seizures, restless legs syndrome, and nerve pain and it belongs to a class of anticonvulsant medication.
Gabapentin works by decreasing the number of seizures you have, relieving pain, and improving your sleep among several other benefits.
If you take gabapentin you also may experience weight gain as a side effect.
In this article, we will discuss how gabapentin causes weight gain, how to stop it, and other potential risks associated with taking this medication.
What is gabapentin?
Gabapentin is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medication that is used to treat various conditions.
The medication is also available as a generic drug and as the brand-name drugs Neurontin and Gralise. It is an anticonvulsant and works by stabilizing electrical activity in the brain.
Frequently, it is used on neuropathic pain, which is pain that originates from damaged nerves.
Neuropathic pain can be caused by diabetes, shingles, spinal cord injury, and fibromyalgia.
It is most commonly used to treat the following:
- Seizures, although it has not been found to help treat generalized epileptic seizures but can treat focal epileptic seizures
- Neuropathic pain which is also called nerve pain
- Sleep disorders
- Drug dependency
- Different forms of nystagmus which are involuntary movements of your eyes
- Hot flashes
- Multiple sclerosis (MS), specifically spasms caused by it
- Itching caused by kidney failure
How does gabapentin work?
Gabapentin works by binding to voltage-gated calcium channels which are found in the central nervous system.
Due to this action, it then reduces the release of neurotransmitters like glutamate, noradrenaline, and substance P.
All of these neurotransmitters are involved in the nerve activity of pain transmission. By reducing their release, gabapentin is able to help reduce pain.
What are the common side effects and risks of taking gabapentin?
- Dry mouth
- Increased appetite which can lead to weight gain
- Peripheral edema, which is swelling of the legs due to water retention and can cause weight gain
- Ataxia, which is an involuntary movement of the muscles
Weight gain is not a common side effect of gabapentin although it can happen. In fact, only about 2% of people who take the medication experienced weight gain.
The exact mechanism of how gabapentin causes weight gain is unknown. However, it is believed that the medication may increase appetite or cause fluid retention.
As with many drugs, there are also some more serious risks and adverse effects involved with taking gabapentin. These severe side effects include:
Anaphylaxis is a rare but potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, hives, and swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Angioedema is a condition that causes swelling under the skin. It can occur in any area of the body but is most common in the face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Symptoms include swelling of the affected area and difficulty breathing.
Respiratory depression is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when breathing becomes shallow and slow.
Symptoms include drowsiness, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
Hypersensitivity reactions are rare but can occur if you are allergic to gabapentin. Symptoms include skin rash, hives, and difficulty breathing.
Suicidal ideation is a rare but serious side effect of gabapentin and involves thinking about or planning suicide.
If you experience these symptoms, you need to seek medical attention immediately. When you stop taking gabapentin it can also cause withdrawal symptoms that include agitation, disorientation, and confusion as well as other symptoms. These symptoms typically last only a day or two.
Gabapentin may also have drug interactions with other medications that you are taking. Therefore, it is important to talk to your doctor or health care provider about all the medications that you are taking, even if they are over-the-counter medications.
How does gabapentin cause you to gain weight?
The exact mechanism of how gabapentin causes weight gain is unknown.
However, it is believed that the medication may increase appetite or cause fluid retention. It can also possibly decrease your motivation to exercise.
Gabapentin may also cause your metabolism to slow which can lead to weight gain.
Finally, some medications are also known to increase fat storage which would also lead to weight gain.
How can you tell if it is gabapentin causing weight gain?
If you are taking gabapentin and notice that you are gaining weight, the first thing you need to do is talk to your doctor or health care provider.
They will be able to determine if the weight gain is due to the medication or other factors.
If you haven’t switched your diet, lessened your physical activity, or had increased stress recently then it is most likely your medication is causing your weight gain.
How do I stop or reverse weight gain while taking gabapentin?
If you are concerned about weight gain while taking gabapentin, there are a few things that you can do. First, talk to your doctor or health care provider about your concerns.
They may be able to switch you to a different medication that does not cause weight gain.
If that is not an option, they may be able to adjust the dose of your medication. Finally, they may also recommend some lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise that can help you lose weight.
Can other medications cause weight gain?
Yes, there are many other medications that can cause weight gain. Some of these include antidepressants, antipsychotics, corticosteroids, insulin, and birth control pills.
If you are concerned about your body weight and weight gain from your medication, talk to your doctor or health care provider as they may be able to switch you to a different medication.
Can anyone take gabapentin?
Gabapentin is not for everyone. Do not take gabapentin if you are allergic to it, have a history of suicide attempts or suicidal ideation, or have a history of drug abuse.
Also, do not take gabapentin if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Before taking gabapentin, you need to also talk to your doctor or health care provider about your medical history.
Gabapentin is a medication that is used to treat various conditions such as seizures, nerve pain, and hot flashes. It is also sometimes used off-label for anxiety and insomnia.
The mechanism of how gabapentin causes weight gain is unknown but it is believed to increase appetite, cause fluid retention, or slow metabolism among other possible causes. In some cases, you also may be able to combat weight gain with lifestyle changes such as eating healthy and getting exercise.
If you are concerned about weight gain from your medication or have any other questions, talk to your doctor or health care provider.
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