The Lamictal blood test is a specific test that is used to determine the levels of lamotrigine that are in the blood. This medication is commonly prescribed through many brand names, including Lamictal, and its primary purpose is as an anticonvulsant. Individuals who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder or epilepsy will commonly be prescribed this medication.
Some psychiatrists have also started prescribing Lamictal as an off-label anti-depressant.
When used for epilepsy, it can help to control focal and tonic-clonic seizures that are primary or secondary. It has also been found to be successful in treating seizures that are associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. It is also an effective mood stabilizer, becoming the first drug after lithium approved by the FDA for such a purpose – a gap of 30 years.
It is approved in the US for maintenance treatments of bipolar Type 1.
What Is the Purpose of the Lamictal Blood Test?
Lamictal, like any other medication, offers the potential of negative or harmful side effects when it is being taken on a regular basis. The risk of experiencing an adverse effect from lamotrigine increases when it is being taken in an inappropriate way.
The blood tests for this medication are typically given for two reasons: to avoid inappropriate levels of the medication and to ensure that a build-up to therapeutic levels is actually occurring.
Lamictal offers a black box warning because it can cause life-threatening skin reactions. This include toxic epidermal necrolysis. Virtually all of the cases that do occur as a side effect do so after the first 2-8 weeks of therapy. For this reason, it is recommended that anyone taking lamotrigine under any brand name seek immediate medical help if they experience a skin rash.
Adverse side effects are also known to occur is someone stops taking their medication on a regular basis, then resumes so at their current level without building back up to therapeutic levels once again.
Fever and fatigue are also known side effects which require an immediate medical evaluation.
Less serious side effects include crossed eyes, double vision, constriction of the pupils, and a lack of coordination.
What Do My Lamictal Blood Test Results Mean?
The bioavailability of Lamictal is very high, rated at 98% by the Mayo Clinic. This means the drug is metabolized quickly, with an average half-life for adults of up to 33 hours. This availability is increased with valproic acid therapy to nearly 72 hours in some individuals, while carbamazepine therapies may reduce the half-life to just 14 hours.
This can make finding the correct therapeutic range and then maintaining it rather tricky, depending on the diagnosis. The range of an acceptable therapeutic level of Lamictal is generally 2.5-15 mcg/mL, but the specific therapeutic level is dependent on the individual and may be higher or lower in some instances.
Most people who are taking Lamictal will begin to show signs of toxicity as soon as peak serum concentrations reach higher than 20 mcg/mL. Some blood tests, however, have shown that some individuals are able to tolerate peak concentration levels of this medication that are as high as 70 mcg/mL, or nearly 5 times the maximum therapeutic level that is recommended for most patients.
The Lamictal blood test is used to confirm these therapeutic levels. If an inappropriate level of this medication is found from the blood test, then a medical provider may adjust dosing to help raise or lower levels based on what the test results indicate.
When to Ask About Whether Lamictal Is Right for You
More than 5 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Millions more may be undiagnosed. The time to speak with a medical provider about Lamictal is when you believe you are experiencing the signs of mania and depression in large swings.
Mania symptoms include feeling elated for long periods of time, yet also being easily agitated. Some have racing thoughts and may talk quickly. There may be impulsivity, risky behaviors, and over-confidence displayed as well.
Depression symptoms include hopelessness for long periods of time. Some may withdraw from family and friends. There may be a lack of energy, slower speech, and problems with memory. In severe swings, there may be thoughts about suicide or a preoccupation with death.
A medical provider will provide a complete exam and look at an entire medical history before initiating a diagnosis. If epilepsy or bipolar disorder is diagnosed, then the Lamictal blood test will become a regular part of your health routine.