What Is Phenytoin Used For?
Phenytoin is used for treating certain types of epileptic seizures, including generalized tonic-clonic seizures, complex partial seizures, and seizures during brain surgery. The chewable tablet and oral liquid forms of phenytoin are particularly useful for children with epilepsy. Occasionally, phenytoin is also used for something other than the conditions mentioned above. Among these potential "off-label" phenytoin uses are the treatment of nerve pain, migraine headaches, and irregular heart rhythms.
What Is Phenytoin Used For? -- An Overview
Phenytoin (Dilantin®) is a prescription medication used for treating 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). 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.
Epilepsy and Seizures
Epilepsy is a brain condition that occurs when there are sudden, brief changes in how the brain's electrical system works. These changes in brain activity can lead to a seizure (see Epilepsy Symptoms). Depending on which part of the brain is affected, a seizure may affect the person's consciousness, body movements, emotions, or senses (taste, touch, smell, vision, or hearing).
Some people may have only a single seizure during their lives, and one seizure does not mean that a person has epilepsy (see Seizures and Epilepsy). In fact, the term epilepsy refers to a number of different kinds of unprovoked, recurring seizures that happen for a number of different reasons.
In over half of all cases, the cause of epilepsy is not known. When the cause of epilepsy is known, it may be one of the following:
- Other medical conditions, such as a stroke or Alzheimer's disease
- Head trauma
- A brain tumor or brain infection, such as meningitis
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Genetics (see Genes and Epilepsy).
Epilepsy treatments may include medications (see Epilepsy Medication), surgery (see Epilepsy Surgery), diet changes (see Epilepsy Diet), and biofeedback.
There are over 30 different types of seizures that a person with epilepsy may experience. These seizures are generally classified into two main categories -- partial seizures (also known as focal seizures) and generalized seizures.