How Does Gabapentin Work?

Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant medication that works by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain and changing the way the body senses pain, according to MedlinePlus. Gabapentin is used to control certain types of seizures, relieve certain types of pain and treat restless legs syndrome.

Gabapentin helps control the symptoms associated with medical conditions, but it does not cure them, according to MedlinePlus. Patients are advised to keep taking gabapentin exactly as directed even if they are feeling well. Suddenly stopping gabapentin can lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, sleeping problems, nausea, pain and sweating.

Gabapentin may cause side effects, such as weakness, drowsiness, headache, uncontrollable shaking, vision problems and unsteadiness, notes MedlinePlus. Anxiety; memory and gastrointestinal problems; dry mouth; weight gain; joint pain; fever; flu-like symptoms and swelling of the hands, feet, ankles or lower legs are additional possible side effects. These symptoms should be reported to a doctor only if they are severe or unrelieved.

Serious side effects that warrant an immediate call to a doctor include itching; rash; hoarseness; problems swallowing or breathing; seizures; and swelling of the face, tongue, lips, eyes or throat. MedlinePlus states that taking gabapentin may also cause changes in mental health, such as suicidal thoughts, panic attacks, agitation and aggressive or withdrawn behavior, which require immediate attention from a doctor.