What is Dilantin?
Phenytoin is an oral and injectable anti-seizure medication first synthesized in 1908.
Why is Dilantin prescribed to patients?
Phenytoin is an anti-seizure medication
(anticonvulsant) used for preventing or treating
generalized tonic-clonic (grand
mal) seizures, complex partial seizures (psychomotor seizures), and seizures
occurring during or after neurosurgery. It may be used alone or with phenobarbital or other anticonvulsants.
Do I need a prescription for Dilantin?
Is Dilantin available as a generic drug?
What are the side effects of Dilantin?
Many adverse effects can occur during phenytoin therapy
- difficulty focusing (vision),
- unsteady gate,
- abnormal involuntary movements,
- abdominal pain, and
- loss of appetite.
Children and young adults can develop
overgrowth of the gums during long-term therapy which requires regular treatment
by a dentist. Good oral hygiene and gum massage may reduce the risk. R
occur in between 1 in 20 and 1 in 10 persons; some may be severe. Additionally,
darkening coloration of the skin may develop (more commonly in women). Phenytoin
can produce unusual growth of hair in some patients. This reaction most commonly
affects the arms and legs but can also affect the trunk and face; it may be
Various lymph node reactions have been reported with phenytoin
therapy. Lymph nodes may swell, sometimes painfully.
Phenytoin causes serum glucose (sugar) to rise. Thus, blood sugar should be monitored closely when
phenytoin is administered to patients with diabetes.
Phenytoin can potentially
injure the liver although this is an uncommon occurrence.
Phenytoin can cause
the platelet or white blood cell counts to drop, increasing the risk of bleeding
or infection, respectively. Phenytoin also can cause anemia.
interferes with vitamin D metabolism, phenytoin can cause weakening of the bones
Other important side effects caused by phenytoin include sexual dysfunction, such as:
- decreased libido,
- impotence, and
- priapism (painful, prolonged erections).
medications have been associated with an increased risk of suicidal thinking and
behavior. Anyone considering the use of antiepileptic drugs must balance this
risk of suicide with the clinical need for the antiepileptic drug. Patients who
begin antiepileptic therapy should be closely observed for clinical worsening,
suicidal thoughts or unusual changes in behavior.
What is the dosage for Dilantin?
The dosing of phenytoin is patient specific. It may be given
once, twice, 3, or 4 times daily. Doses are often adjusted to find the
optimal dose based on measurement of blood levels. Taking phenytoin with food
may reduce some of the side effects. Elderly patients, debilitated persons, and
patients with certain kidney or
liver diseases may need lower doses. The
suspension should not be given at the same time as tube feedings since tube
feedings bind to phenytoin and reduce its absorption. The recommended adult dose
is 100 mg two to four times daily. Some patients may require 200 mg three times
daily. Patients stabilized on 100 mg three times daily may receive 300 mg once
daily of the extended release capsules.
Which drugs or supplements interact with Dilantin?
There are many potential drug interactions with phenytoin. Phenytoin can increase the metabolism (elimination) of many drugs,
reducing their concentrations in the body. Drugs that may be affected include:
- digoxin (Lanoxin),
- carbamazepine (Tegretol,
Tegretol XR, Equetro, Carbatrol),
- clonazepam (Klonopin),
- corticosteroids (for example,
- oral contraceptives,
(Paxil, Paxil CR, Pexeva),
- tacrolimus (Prograf),
- valproic acid
(Depakote, Depakote ER, Depakene, Depacon, Stavzor),
- warfarin (Coumadin).
Phenytoin can interact with these drugs not only when
it is added to therapy but also when it is discontinued. In the latter case, the
concentration of the other drugs may increase. Sometimes the effect may be
unpredictable. Phenytoin’s metabolism may be affected by other drugs. Drugs that
increase phenytoin blood levels and toxicity include:
- acute alcohol intake,
- fluoxetine (Prozac),
- fluvoxamine (Luvox),
- methylphenidate (Concerta),
- omeprazole (Prilosec),
- tolbutamide, and
Drugs that may decrease phenytoin levels and reduce
effectiveness include carbamazepine, chronic alcohol abuse, reserpine, and
The oral absorption of phenytoin can be reduced by any of the following:
- antacids containing magnesium,
- calcium carbonate, or aluminum;
- calcium salts; or enteral feeding products (tube feedings).
Separating the administration of phenytoin and enteral feeding products, antacids, or calcium salts by at least 2 hours will help avoid this interaction.
Is Dilantin safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?
There is an increased risk of malformations and birth defects in women taking phenytoin. Thus, phenytoin should be used in
only if the physician feels that the potential benefit outweighs the risk.
Phenytoin is secreted into breast milk. Breastfeeding is not recommended for persons taking phenytoin.
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What else should I know about Dilantin?
What preparations of Dilantin are available?
Capsules (extended or immediate release): 30, 100, 200, and 300 mg; Chewable Tablet: 50 mg; Suspension: 125 mg/5 mL; Injection: 50 mg/mL.
How should I keep Dilantin stored?
Capsules, tablets, and suspension should be kept at room temperature, 68 F – 77 F (20 C – 25 C).
How does Dilantin work?
The exact mechanism of action is not known, Phenytoin may work by reducing the sensitivity of nerves in the brain to excessive stimulation and reducing transmission of impulses between nerves.
When was Dilantin approved by the FDA?
Phenytoin was originally approved by the FDA in 1939.