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What Are the Symptoms of a Lamictal® Overdose?

Lamictal® is prescribed to patients who suffer from seizures and bipolar disorder.
Ataxia, or the loss of muscle coordination, is one symptom of a Lamictal® overdose that results in difficulty walking or talking.
Nystagmus is rapid movement of the eye, an overdose symptom that can impair a patient's vision.
Pregnant women are at higher risk for Lamictal overdose because their bodies absorb the drug at a faster rate.
Lamictal may be used to treat bipolar disorder.
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  • Originally Written By: Summer Banks
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Images By: Life Mental Health, Leonardo2011, Mtths, Lanak, Feng Yu
  • Last Modified Date: 12 December 2014
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The two most common symptoms of Lamictal® overdose are loss of muscle coordination and uncontrollable eye movements, though skin reaction and loss of consciousness have also been reported. In most cases these symptoms will go away on their own once the body has processed the drug and flushed it out, but a lot of this depends on how much was ingested. Overdoses have been linked to comas and even death. Pregnant women are often at particular risk of overdosing since their bodies will absorb the drug at a different rate on account of the growing fetus. Not a lot is known about the effects of Lamictal® on unborn children, but most medical providers recommend that pregnant women not take this drug.

Loss of Muscle Coordination

Lamictal®, also sometimes known by the more generic name “lamotrigine,” is typically prescribed for seizure patients and people suffering from bipolar disorder. When used properly it can be very effective for calming the muscle spasms and convulsions that accompany most epileptic episodes. Taken in excess, though, this benefit can turn harmful and can actually cause a person to lose control of their muscle function entirely.

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The loss of muscle coordination is known medically as ataxia. It typically affects the major muscles of the legs, hands, mouth, eyes, and throat, though almost any part of the body can be impacted. Muscle coordination is needed to do most anything, including walking, talking, and swallowing. The longer someone loses these functions, the scarier and more serious the consequences can be.

It’s important to distinguish feelings of clumsiness and weakness, which are common side effects of the drug, from true overdose symptoms. In most cases, the loss of coordination due to an overdose is very pronounced and is typically more than a mere inconvenience. People in this category may find that their muscles simply don’t respond when they want, resulting in paralysis or extremely delayed movements. Difficulty breathing is also common.

Rapid Eye Movement

Spontaneous eye movement, or nystagmus, can be another symptom of a Lamictal® overdose. When this happens, one or both eyes twitch uncontrollably. People usually experience blurred vision as a result. Sometimes this is very short-lived, but it can last for hours or even days depending on the severity of the overdose. Blurred vision can make it difficult if not impossible to perform basic functions like walking, driving, and operating machinery. In most cases vision will ultimately come back to normal, but not always; in extreme instances, patients suffer permanent vision loss.

Skin Reactions

Some people may also see a raised rash when they have too much Lamictal® in their bloodstream. This reaction is most common in people with fair, sensitive skin, though it can impact anyone. Rashes tend to be itchy and the skin can remain swollen for several days.

Loss of Consciousness, Coma, and Death

People sometimes also faint or temporarily lose consciousness, and severe Lamictal® overdose can result in coma and even death. If emergency responders or healthcare practitioners know that a person has taken lamotrigine-containing compounds before losing consciousness they are often able to save the person’s life by flushing the bloodstream or injecting other drugs that can reverse Lamictal®’s effects. A lot depends on how much the person took and how much time has elapsed. The sooner someone gets treatment, the more likely he or she is to make a full recovery.

Considerations for Pregnant Women

Women who are pregnant often have to use extra caution when taking any drugs, Lamictal® included. Not only is it usually easier for pregnant women to overdose, there is also a risk that the fetus itself could receive some of the medication’s effects. Full-strength Lamictal® is not generally approved for children, particularly not unborn children whose major bodily organs are still forming. Symptoms of overdose in these cases often manifest as birth defects, developmental delays, and fetal death.

Drug Interaction Precautions

There are certain medications that can affect the absorption of Lamictal®. Drugs containing valporic acid are a key example. This compound is also used in the treatment of both epilepsy and mood disorders, but people should not usually take the two together since doing so can intensify the risks without necessarily improving treatment. Overdose is often more likely when drugs are combined because people are more easily confused about dosing, and may not be able to tell when the medication is actually working.

Estrogen-based hormone replacement therapies, on the other hand, often have the potential to reduce the effects of Lamictal®. This doesn’t necessarily reduce the risk of overdose, though it may make it more unlikely. Hormone therapies are typically prescribed to women who are post-menopausal or those who present with an estrogen deficiency. As a matter of safety, people should discuss all potential medication interactions with the prescribing healthcare professional before beginning any new regimen.

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Discuss this Article

anon292622
Post 7

I am 41 years old. I have been on Lamictal for years. I had the worst stage of endometriosis and had to have hysterectomy earlier than usual. I have no children.

I am on multiple meds for depression and anxiety. I have had thyroid problems (probably for years we now know) so I take Synthroid as well.

I met the man of my dreams three months prior to my 40th birthday and lost him to sudden death (cardiac tamponade) less than a year later. I have not dealt with the grief issues still. I felt beautiful in his presence, even with my thinning hair, my facial and neck and chest hair, my night sweats and insomnia and my hot flashes that make me feel I am going to spontaneously combust.

Now, however, I just wanted to start some HRT to help and what do you know, the Lamictal interaction is of moderate severity and I cannot stop the Lamictal to take the Pristiq.

I was taking just the Estradiol (with no interaction that I was aware of) with no relief and doc showed labs of testosterone levels to be 252 compared to the upper limit of normal in a woman being 240! We decided on this combo of norgestimate (?) and Estradiol and I was excited until the pharmacist discussed the warning of interaction with me. What options do I have now?

anon256903
Post 6

I have been taking this pill for a little over five years, and I never had side effects until just recently when I took my regular dose at night then accidentally took it again about five hours later instead of my other medication.

I cannot tell you how serious the loss of coordination and eye movement is. I had to have a friend help me walk and it took a while for me to focus my eyes without them twitching. I collapsed a few times before my friend just decided to carry me.

I advise anyone who accidentally overdoses to not go anywhere without someone with you. My head was close to being busted by one of my falls.

PinkLady4
Post 5

Even though Lamictal is tolerated well by most patients, it has some serious side effects for some who take it. I should know, I'm a nurse!

Those who are thinking of taking this medicine should be well aware of the possible serious side effects, and signs of overdose. Tell your doctor if you are allergic to anything in the medicine. Notify your doctor if you are pregnant or breast feeding. There are many side effects that may come with taking Lamictal. Check with your doctor or pharmacist.

One side effect that is rare, but does happen is Lamictal skin rash. It can cover a large portion of skin and cause the skin to die. Infection and disfigurement can come.

Learn as much as you can about this medicine, if you plan to take it.

Bertie68
Post 4

My cousin was on this for a while for his bipolar, but it didn't really work for him. I can't say I'm sorry, because that drug has some scary side effects!

Losing coordination of muscles for walking, talking, and swallowing is both a side effect and a sign of overdose. It's a good idea to observe carefully and if it becomes severe enough, be sure to get medical attention.

MissMuffet
Post 3

Someone in my family takes this drug for epilepsy, so I am quite familiar with it. I don't doubt that it's useful for controlling bipolar disorder, especially as it doesn't generally cause a weight increase.

The one thing not mentioned that you need to watch for though is if the person taking it develops a rash. Lamictal effects some people this way, and for many it is a harmless annoyance. It can however indicate something much more serious, such as Steven Johnsons Syndrome (SJS) or Toxic Epiedermal Necrolysis (TENS).

Please don't hesitate to get any signs of a rash checked out ASAP.

popcorn
Post 2

If you are worried about the dosage of Lamictal given to someone in your family for their bipolar disorder it may be a good idea to monitor their drug intake.

The great mood swings present in those with bipolar disorder make being in control of their own drug dosages a concern. If they are feeling too depressed they may end up taking more than the required amount and overdosing.

I would suggest, that if it is in your power, that you keep the Lamictal in a safe place, away from the patient's hands. Just make sure they get their prescribed dose on time.

letshearit
Post 1

If you are concerned with the dosage of Lamictal you or a loved one has been given it is a good idea to sit down with your doctor and discuss your worries.

Most health care professionals are quite open to talking about the medications they prescribe and how it will impact the patient's life. They can usually provide you with some material to read that will give you lots of helpful information.

If you are not feeling comfortable with speaking to your doctor, a pharmacist is often more knowledgeable about drug side effects, dosage and interactions. It is their job to make sure the drugs you get mix well and aren't given at overdose levels.

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