Lamictal & Short Term Memory:Long Term Memory & BP
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Q:  Lamictal & Short Term Memory:  Long Term Memory & BP

I have been taking lamictal for 5 years. I am 32 years old. I have noticed that I am losing my short term memory.  Is it possible that the lamictal is doing this?  And is it possible that the bipolar disorder wipes out some long term memory?

Dear Cindy -- 
Unfortunately it is well established that mood disorders interfere with short-term memory.  So can medications, though. It would be unlikely that lamotrigine (Lamictal) would start doing that after 5 years where it did not before, unless there was a dose increase (at high doses, 300 mg and up, I've seen people have difficulty with memory; generally not at lower doses). Nevertheless, you'd have to ask your doctor about the idea of lowering lamotrigine to see if your memory got better. DO NOT do this on your own (sorry about yelling there; gotta make that clear). But that is the only sure-fire way of knowing if the lamotrigine is playing a role -- and even then the result may not be so clear, if any other variables, such as your symptoms worsening as the dose went down, were to occur at the same time. 

As for the idea that the illness itself can cause problems with memory, the good news is that getting symptoms treated can often improve memory. I've seen this in my own patients, where they are more likely to talk about memory problems when other symptoms are active as well, and less so when they get better.  But it's also been demonstrated in formal research studies.  Mind you, much of this research has focused on brain size changes, so if you go there, brace yourself: it all looks scary at first, I think, seeing that mood changes are associated, in some people at least, with brain changes.  But the point is to show you an example in which memory improves, all the way to normal in this study, with treatment;  see the studies in depression, on the page describing how brain changes can be reversed

Good luck with your efforts to understand this memory problem and your options to address it.  

Dr. Phelps

Published March, 2006


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