According to the Epilepsy Foundation, epilepsy and seizures affect almost 3 million Americans, with around 200,000 new cases being diagnosed each year. Epilepsy is generally treated by medications, surgery, diet changes, vagus nerve stimulation or a variety of complementary treatment options. If you suffer from epilepsy and have been prescribed medications, you and your physician will need to monitor your levels of vitamin B-12, as certain antiseizure medications can deplete B-12.
Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain in which clusters of nerve cells send abnormal signals. The abnormal signals can cause strange sensations and behavior as well as convulsions, muscle spasms and loss of consciousness. The causes of epilepsy and seizures include illness, brain damage or abnormal development of the brain. While many children may experience a seizure induced by a fever, this does not mean they are epileptic. Epilepsy is defined only when a person has had two or more seizures.
About Vitamin B-12
Vitamin B-12 is a component of the B complex of vitamins. It is a nutrient that helps maintain the health of your body’s nerves and blood cells. According to the National Institutes of Health, adults should receive 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B-12 a day. B-12 can be found in fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and dairy products and some cereals that have been fortified. Supplements are available in standard vitamin form, sublingual form or administered as a shot. A deficiency in vitamin B-12 causes symptoms that include weakness, weight loss, anemia, numbness in extremities, balance problems, depression, confusion and memory difficulty.
For many patients diagnosed with epilepsy, medications such as carbamazepine, gabapentin, phenobarbital, pregabalin, primidone or topiramate are prescribed to help control seizures. Research has looked at these medications and discovered a connection to vitamin B-12. A 2011 study published in the “Annals of Neurology” found that patients treated with phenobarbital, pregabalin, primidone or topiramate showed reduced levels of vitamin B-12, while patients treated with valproate showed higher serum levels of B-12. The study concluded that patients treated with the medications that reduce vitamin B-12 serum levels were at risk for hyperhomocysteninemia and that vitamin B-12 supplementation was recommended.
If you are taking medication to treat your epilepsy, consult with your physician regarding your vitamin B-12 levels. Your physician can check your blood levels and develop a supplement plan that will work best for you. Continual monitoring of your vitamin B-12 levels is recommended. Let your physician know if you take medications such as Prilosec, Tagamet or Metformin, as these medications can also affect the body’s ability to absorb and use vitamin B-12. Your physician will need to adjust your supplementation plan to take these medications into account.
- Epilepsy Foundation: Incidence and Prevalence
- Epilepsy Foundation: Treatment
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; NINDA Epilepsy Information Page; June 28, 2011
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B12
- Annals of Neurology: Antiepileptic Drugs Interact with Folate and Vitamin B12 Serum Levels