Department of Neurology

For what types of seizures is ethosuximide (Zarontin) effective?

Q: I was just put on Zarontin, and taken off Depakote, because my hair was falling out a lot, and also I had gained a large amount of weight. The first type of seizure I had was an absence seizure, then I had a grand mal seizure. Can Zarontin be used for both types of seizures? Also, how is Zarontin used by the body?

A: Ethosuximide (Zarontin) is effective for typical absence seizures only. These seizures start in childhood and have a typical EEG pattern of generalized 3 Hertz (cycles per second) spike-and-wave discharges. Ethosuximide is ineffective for tonic-clonic (Grand Mal, convulsive) seizures, and is ineffective for complex partial (psychomotor) seizures, which are often confused with absence seizures. Ethosuximide is cleared from your body by the kidneys, rather than being metabolized by the liver, as are other seizure medications. The fact that you have lost control of your seizures and had a tonic-clonic seizure suggests that ethosuximide will not work for your epilepsy.

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