What Is Valproic Acid Used For?

Valproic Acid Uses for Partial Seizures

Partial seizures occur in just one part of the brain. About 60 percent of people with epilepsy have partial seizures. The following are two types of partial seizures:
  • Simple partial seizures, in which a person will remain conscious but experience unusual feelings or sensations that can take many forms.
  • Complex partial seizures, in which a person has a change of consciousness or loss of consciousness. People having a complex partial seizure may display strange, repetitious behaviors, such as blinks, twitches, mouth movements, or even walking in a circle.
Valproic acid is approved to control complex partial seizures. It may be used either alone or in combination with other seizure medications.

Valproic Acid Uses for Absence Seizures

Absence seizures, also known as petit mal seizures, involve "blanking out." They are most common in children. During an absence seizure, a child may "stare into space" and may not respond to other people for 10 to 20 seconds. The child will not be aware of these episodes and will continue as if nothing happened once the seizure is over.
Complex absence seizures involve muscle movement (often eye blinking), while simple absence seizures do not involve muscle movements. Valproic acid is approved to treat both complex and simple absence seizures. It may be used either alone or with other seizure medications. It is also approved for use with other seizure medications to treat people with absence seizures as well as other types of seizures.

How Does Valproic Acid Work?

Valproic acid works by increasing the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is a natural brain chemical that stops or slows down other brain signals. Increasing GABA helps prevent the abnormal brain signals that lead to a seizure. It is thought that valproic acid may also prevent seizures by affecting sodium channels in the brain.
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