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Phenytoin is a medication that is used for the treatment of certain kinds of seizures in people with epilepsy. While the drug cannot prevent epileptic seizures from occurring, it can help control seizures. Phenytoin, which is available by prescription, comes in several different forms, including chewable tablets, extended-release capsules, and an oral suspension. Side effects may include confusion, muscle coordination problems, and slurred speech.

What Is Phenytoin?

Phenytoin (Dilantin®) is a prescription medication used to treat certain types of seizures in people with epilepsy. There are several different phenytoin products: Dilantin Kapseals® (phenytoin sodium extended-release capsules), Dilantin Infatabs® (phenytoin chewable tablets) and Dilantin-125® (phenytoin oral suspension, or liquid). Specifically, phenytoin is approved to control the following types of seizures:
 
  • Complex partial seizures -- complex partial seizures involve decreased consciousness ("complex") and affect only one part of the brain ("partial")
     
  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizures -- these seizures, which are also known as "grand mal" seizures, affect the whole brain ("generalized"), and involve muscle rigidity and contractions ("tonic-clonic")
     
  • Seizures during brain surgery.
     
(Click What Is Phenytoin Used For? for more information on the uses of this medication, including possible off-label uses.)
 

Who Makes Phenytoin?

It is made by Pfizer.
 

How Does It Work?

Epilepsy is a brain disorder that occurs when there are recurring, brief changes in how the brain's electrical system works. These changes in brain activity can lead to a seizure (see Epilepsy Symptoms).
 
Phenytoin works by affecting sodium channels in the brain. It does not prevent abnormal brain activity from starting; instead, it prevents the abnormal activity from spreading to other parts of the brain. This action helps control seizures.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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