Gabapentin for neuropathic pain has been found to be very effective when used correctly. Neuropathic pain refers to nerve pain and can be highly debilitating and affect the sufferer’s quality of life significantly. It occurs most commonly in patients with diabetes and after a herpes infection such as shingles. Gabapentin for neuropathic pain is available in most countries by prescription only and may be known by different trade names in different countries, according to manufacturer.
Neuropathic pain, often referred to as postherpetic neuralgia when occurring after a herpes zoster (shingles) infection, occurs due to damage caused to the nerves during the infection. This may result in various symptoms including burning pain, sensitivity to light touch or clothes, itching or numbness and may last for months to years. Treatment is often difficult and may include the use of analgesics, tricyclic antidepressants and antiepileptic drugs, like gabapentin.
Gabapentin is most commonly used to treat some types of epilepsy. It is not fully understood how gabapentin for neuropathic pain works but many studies have shown it to be effective for this indication. Due to the difficulty often experienced in trying to control neuropathic pain, the treating doctor may try different medications from different classes until pain control is achieved. In some cases this may entail the use of numerous medications together.
When using gabapentin, the doctor will usually start at a low dose and increase the dose slowly over a number of days, monitoring their response to the drug and tolerance of potential adverse effects. Side effects of gabapentin may include sleepiness, dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting. It is recommended that driving and the operation of heavy machinery is avoided until the maintenance dose is established, and the patient’s response is known.
The prescribed dose and dosage interval of gabapentin for neuropathic pain should not be exceeded without discussion with the prescribing doctor. Depending on the severity of the pain and the person’s response, therapy with gabapentin may be long term. The drug should not be stopped suddenly, but rather withdrawn slowly with tapering doses, under supervision of the doctor.
Other medications, including homeopathic, over-the-counter and complementary medications should be discussed with the prescribing doctor before starting gabapentin for neuropathic pain as interactions may occur with other drugs. Underlying clinical conditions should also be disclosed as it may be contraindicated in people with some medical conditions. Pregnancy, desired pregnancy and lactation should also be discussed.