Steroids and anticonvulsant drugs
Before and after brain surgery, you'll be given steroid therapy and often medicines known as anticonvulsant drugs to help to prevent seizures.
Steroids are drugs used to reduce the swelling that often surrounds brain tumours. Although steroids don’t treat the tumour itself, they help improve symptoms and make you feel better. They may be used before or after surgery, or during or after radiotherapy.
Side effects of steroids
If you’re taking steroids for some time, you may have temporary side effects. These can include weight gain, indigestion, raised blood pressure and a slightly greater risk of getting infections.
When taking steroids some people have mood changes, feel low or depressed, find it difficult to get to sleep, or feel ‘hyper’ or over-active.
You may also develop a higher than normal level of sugar in the blood. If this happens, your doctor will prescribe drugs to bring your blood sugar level back to normal. You’ll need to take these every day. You may also have to do a simple daily test to check for sugar in your urine. You’ll be shown how to do this.
If you take steroids for a long time you may notice that you put on weight or that your thigh muscles are weaker. Your skin may bruise more easily and feel thinner.
These side effects may seem hard to bear at the time, but it’s important to remember that they are temporary and will gradually disappear as the steroid dose is lowered. While you’re having steroid treatment you should carry a steroid card, which your doctor or nurse will give you, to show the type of steroid and the dose you are taking.
It’s important not to stop taking steroids suddenly as this can make you very ill. Your doctor will gradually reduce the dose.
If you had seizures or fits before surgery you may have to take anticonvulsants (drugs to prevent fits). These medicines are often used for people who have brain tumours and also after brain surgery.
There are several different types of anticonvulsants and some commonly used types include:
- carbamazepine (Tegretol®)
- lamotrigine (Lamictal®)
- levetiracetam (Keppra®)
- phenytoin (Epanutin®)
- sodium valproate (Epilim®).
Let your doctor know if you have any side effects.
Some people need to take more than one type of anticonvulsant tablet.