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Gabapentin for neuropathic pain

Please note this information should be read alongside any patient information provided by the manufacturer of the medication.

What is gabapentin?

Gabapentin belongs to a group of medicines used to treat neuropathic pain (pain caused by nerves not working normally).

Pain sensations may be described as hot, burning, throbbing, shooting, sharp, cramping, tingling, numbness, pins and needles and so on.

What forms of gabapentin are available?

Gabapentin comes in capsule and liquid form and can be taken with or without food.

Both forms can be taken as dispensed and swallowed with a glass of water, juice or similar. Alternatively, they can be mixed with a small amount (10mls or 2 teaspoons) of fruit juice or a teaspoon of soft food (such as yogurt, honey or jam). If using capsules simply open the capsule and mix the powder as explained above.

How does gabapentin work?

The mechanism for the analgesic (pain killing) effect of gabapentin is unclear but it changes the way the nerves send messages to the brain. When the nerves are damaged or become irritated they are unable to transmit correct messages to the brain. Often nothing can be seen, but like a faulty electrical cable, the information from the sensors can ‘shortcut’ causing numbness or spark or crackle and abnormal pain and touch responses. Gabapentin helps reduce the number of faulty messages being sent from the nerves to the brain, which results in reduced pain sensations.

These scrambled or altered messages to the brain can also affect your sleep and mood.

How long will it take to work?

It is important to remember that because nerve pain often escalates or ‘winds up’ overtime, it may take time to reverse or ‘unwind’. You may need to continue treatment for 2 to 4 weeks before any benefit is felt. One reason is that the medication needs to be increased slowly and secondly it takes time for the body to respond. Some people do get some benefit straight away, but be prepared to allow time for it to work.

Isn’t gabapentin used for treating epilepsy?

Gabapentin is used for treating epilepsy. Epilepsy is also caused by the nerves sending false messages, but this time to the muscles. However, much research is available to show that gabapentin is very effective in the relief of certain types of pain, and this is now its main use.

When and how much gabapentin do I take?

Your doctor will work out the amount of gabapentin (the dose) that is right for you or your child. The dose will be seen on the medicine label.

Your doctor will build up the dose gradually. The starting dose will be small and then gradually increase over several days. This helps you or your child get used to the medicine.

It is important to follow these instructions and take the doses regularly and evenly spaced through the day: do not leave more than 12 hours between doses.

What if I forget to take a dose?

If you forget a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it is close to your next dose.

Do not take a double dose to make up for a forgotten dose.

Are there any possible side effects?

Medicines are used to make you better, but sometimes they cause problems that we don’t want – side effects.

You may get some side effects when you first start taking gabapentin. They will usually settle down within a week or so as your body gets used to the medicine.

Common side effects include:

  • Drowsiness (sleepiness), dizziness or unsteadiness.
  • Loss of appetite (feel less hungry), and feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomit).
  • Hungrier than usual – try to eat food that is low in fat and sugar.
  • Diarrhoea, constipation, wind, indigestion or a dry mouth.
  • Occasionally children may seem particularly emotional, anxious or overactive or may have problems with their memory.

If you experience any side effects that worry you, let your doctor or pain nurse know.

Can other common medicines be given at the same time as gabapentin?

Yes, you can take regular analgesics (pain killers), unless your doctor has told you not too.

Remember it is important to tell your doctor what medications you are taking, including those bought without prescription or herbal medicines. We will tell your GP that you have started taking gabapentin and of any changes to the dose.

Do not take gabapentin at the same time as indigestion remedies. Wait at least 2 hours between these types of medicines.

Is there anything else I need to know?

  • Do not suddenly stop taking Gabapentin, as you may get withdrawal symptoms.
  • Do not change the dose without getting advice from your doctor/pain nurse.

If and when your doctor decides to stop this medicine, they will discuss this with you. You will usually reduce the dose bit by bit.

Order a new prescription from your GP at least 2 weeks before you run out.

Is there anything else I need to know?

Do not suddenly stop taking gabapentin, as you may get withdrawal symptoms.

Do not change the dose without getting advice from your doctor or pain nurse.

If and when your doctor decides to stop this medicine, they will discuss this with you. You will usually reduce the dose bit by bit.

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Disclaimer

Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: PAI7

Resource Type: Article

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If you require any additional information or have any questions about Gabapentin please speak with the Pain Team.

You can contact the pain nurses:

08.30-17.30hrs

Monday to Friday

on telephone number 0114 2717397, if it is out of hours please leave a message and we will get back to you.

NHS

Western Bank
Sheffield
S10 2TH

United Kingdom

Switchboard: 0114 271 7000

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