And now for something completely different. Epilepsy is a relatively common neurological disorder that features recurring spontaneous seizures. Most people associate seizures with muscle spasms (someone convulsing on the floor), but these periods of overactivity in the brain can also present in as benign a manner as loss of contact with the environment (spacing out) for a few seconds. It all depends on the type of seizures that people have. Many people with epilepsy can be effectively treated (have their seizures controlled) using antiseizure drugs, otherwise know as anticonvulsants or antiepileptics. As one of my profs has pointed out, both are pretty lousy names, since not all seizures cause convulsions and antiepileptics sounds like they are intended to knock off people with epilepsy. Which they are not.

Anywho, one of the classic big drugs that has been and continues to be used in the treatment of epilepsy, in particular those people who have tonic-clonic (grand mal) or partial seizures, is phenytoin. Here are some things about it:

  • aka Phenytek, Dilantin, Epanutin
  • introduced in 1938 to much hooplah since it was less sedating than barbiturates (e.g. phenobarbital), which were the only good antiseizure drugs available at the time
  • has a long half-life (~22 hours), which means that it only has to be taken once per day
  • has oodles and fadoodles of terrible side effects, which include: gingival hyperplasia (your gums grow way huge and can easily become infected, potentially causing you to lose all of your teeth), hirsutism (lots and lots and lots of body hair), acne, sedation, and stomach upset
  • is teratogenic (causes birth defects), although it is interesting to note that untreated epilepsy also increases the risk of birth defects

2 chemically inspired comments:

Anonymous said...

What do you call the ducks which got aboard the wrong ark during Noah's flood narrative?

The waders of the lost ark.

CND said...

What do you get, during the Christmas season, when a bomb hits a well?