Trileptal is an anti-seizure medication that doctors may prescribe off-label for people with bipolar disorder. It is the branded version of oxcarbazepine and may help treat mania and depression.

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes symptoms of mania or depression. These may include:

  • irritability
  • hyperactivity
  • restlessness
  • sleeping difficulties
  • forgetfulness

While Trileptal may help with some symptoms of bipolar disorder, it can interact with other medications and may not be safe to use during pregnancy.

This article talks about Trileptal in more detail. It looks at side effects, problems it may cause in persons who are pregnant, and other risks.

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Trileptal is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat bipolar disorder. However, doctors may prescribe it off-label for people with this condition.

Off-label means using medications to treat different symptoms than what the FDA has approved them for.

A 2020 study notes that the combination of clozapine, oxcarbazepine, and rivastigmine may be effective for treating resistant bipolar disorder accompanied by brain atrophy.

Bipolar disorder becomes resistant when it has not responded to previous treatments.

A study from 2021 states that oxcarbazepine may be effective as an add-on therapy to treat mania and acute bipolar depression. It may also work for treating hostile behavior.

Some researchers believe that oxcarbazepine may act as a mood stabilizer. Medications that form part of this category help treat bipolar disorder, as well as mania, hypomania, and severe depression.

The authors behind a 2020 study examined the effects of oxcarbazepine, lamotrigine, and escitalopram in participants with epilepsy and depressive disorder. They state that these medications may help reduce symptoms of depression and improve people’s quality of life.

Read more about bipolar disorder.

Trileptal (oxcarbazepine) is a medication that doctors mainly use to manage seizures in adults and children. It is available as an extended-release tablet and a liquid suspension. People usually take it once per day on an empty stomach.

The medication reduces the amount of sodium in the brain. This may lower the high levels of electrical activity of the neurons that cause seizures.

In bipolar disorder, Trileptal may act as a mood stabilizer helping to prevent manic episodes. It has also shown to not worsen depressive symptoms.

Like with most medications, Trileptal (oxcarbazepine) can cause adverse effects. These include:

People who have developed hypersensitivity after taking carbamazepine may also experience the same reaction with Trileptal.

Experts advise continuing treatment if side effects appear but are not harmful, as they will most likely disappear over time. If side effects persist, a person may want to contact their doctor.

One study also mentions hyponatremia as a possible side effect of oxcarbazepine. This occurs when sodium levels in the blood are lower than normal and may cause various symptoms, such as:

Sodium levels in the blood should be between 135–145 milliequivalents/liter (mEq/L).

These are other side effects that a person may experience when taking anti-seizure medications:

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recommends that people who are pregnant or are planning to get pregnant talk with their doctor. Trileptal may increase an infant’s chance of having craniofacial abnormalities and heart developmental problems.

Healthcare professionals may advise on what the individual can do. They may also suggest taking vitamin K supplements.

Trileptal (oxcarbazepine) may increase bleeding risk as it can cause low vitamin K levels. Experts also note that Trileptal passes into breast milk, but only small amounts get absorbed into the child’s bloodstream.

If the child develops drowsiness, individuals may consider contacting a pediatrician.

The following are some questions people frequently ask about Trileptal and bipolar disorder.

How long does it take for Trileptal to work for bipolar?

It may take several weeks for an individual to see improvement in symptoms of bipolar disorder after beginning use of Triletpal (oxcarbazepine).

Does Trileptal make you gain weight?

Trileptal may cause weight gain in some people. According to a review article, Trileptal is more likely to cause weight gain with long-term use.

What are the dangers of Trileptal?

Trileptal can cause side effects, such as headaches, fatigue, and abdominal pain. These may improve with time, but a person may consider seeking medical care if their side effects worsen.

Medical professionals may not recommend anti-seizure medications for those who have had a hypersensitivity or allergic reaction to these types of medications.

Trileptal may harm the fetus during pregnancy or nursing. Healthcare professionals may prescribe other low dose medications associated with fewer risks.

Trileptal belongs to the class of medications called antiepileptics. These may increase a person’s chance of having suicidal thoughts, worsening symptoms of depression, and mood changes.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects if it’s safe to do so.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

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Trileptal is an anti-seizure medication that may help relieve symptoms of bipolar disorder, such as restlessness, hyperactivity, and insomnia. It is not FDA approved for doctors to prescribe it for this condition, but they may use it off-label.

It may cause side effects, including abdominal pain, fatigue, and nausea. It may also lower sodium levels in the blood, causing muscle cramps, seizures, and agitation.

Individuals who are pregnant or planning to conceive may talk with their medical team to discuss any other treatments suitable for them.

It is important to discuss any side effects or concerns with your doctor. Only stop taking Trileptal under supervision from your doctor. Stopping the medication abruptly can cause more adverse effects.