About Valproic Acid
Valproic acid, or VPA, is an acidic compound that has been found to be an anticonvulsant and mood stabilizing drug and is used primarily in treating epilepsy, bipolar disorder and in the prevention of migraine headaches. Typically, VPA comes in two forms: a liquid and a solid. At room temperature, it is naturally a liquid. To create a solid form, the acid must be reacted with a base (opposite of acid) and can be made into a salt called sodium valproate. Both the liquid and the salt are manufactured and marketed with a few different brand names such as Depakote, Epilim, Valparin, Valpro, Vilapro and Stavzor. The World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicine has deemed Valproic acid one of the most important medications needed within a basic health system.
What does it treat?
The primary use of VPA in today’s medicine is treating epilepsy, bipolar mania and migraine prophylaxis. It’s been found to be successful in treating the manic or mixed episodes that are attributed to bipolar disorder. It’s less traditional uses include treating other impulse control disorders and more recently, controlling some of the negative effects associated with Parkinson’s disease medical therapy. Valproic acid is also very adept at treating a large spectrum of convulsion activity. It’s a first-line treatment for tonic-clonic seizures, absence seizures and myoclonic seizures and as a second-line treatment for partial seizures and infantile spasms. There has also been success found in administering VPA intravenously to treat status epilepticus.
What are its side effects?
Unfortunately, Valproic acid does have some adverse side-effects. The most common adverse effects are diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, seeing double, lazy eye, hormonal disturbances (these can include increased testosterone production and menstrual irregularities), hair loss (temporary), memory problems, weight gain, infections, low platelet count (which can make one bleed more easily), dizziness, drowsiness, tremors (dose- related) and headaches. The less commonly experienced, but very serious side-effects include liver damage, brittle bones (becomes far more common with long-term use), polycystic ovaries, movement disorders (which may be irreversible like tardive dyskinesia), psychiatric/neurologic disturbances like hallucinations, anxiety and confusion, swollen pancreas, low body temperature and potentially life-threatening blood abnormalities.
The contraindications of VPA are:
• Pre-existing acute or chronic hepatic dysfunction or family history of severe hepatitis, particularly medicine related.
• Known hypersensitivity to valproate or any of the excipients used in the preparation
• Urea cycle disorders
• Hepatic porphyria
• Mitochondrial disease