Traditionally, calcium channel blockers are used to treat high blood pressure or heart problems. They may also be used experimentally to treat mania in bipolar disorder, but they don't appear to be as effective as other drugs.
Calcium channel blockers block the small pores in cells that allow calcium to move in and out and widen blood vessels. It's not clear exactly how the drugs work, but they are used to lower blood pressure, improve irregular heartbeats, and treat migraines. They may also help stabilize moods.
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Calcium channel blockers used in bipolar disorder include:
Side Effects of Calcium Channel Blockers
Sometimes, a headache can develop after taking certain calcium channel blockers. These headaches should gradually disappear once you have been taking the medication for a while. Talk to your doctor if headaches continue. Some people also report tenderness, swelling, or bleeding of the gums when starting to take calcium channel blockers. Regular brushing, flossing, and gum massages along with routine dental visits can help lessen this effect. As with any medication, it is important to see your doctor regularly to make sure the drug is working properly.
Calcium channel blockers tend to cause fewer serious side effects than some other drugs used to treat bipolar disorder. However, they are also less effective.
Common calcium channel blocker side effects include:
Slowed heart rate or irregular heart rhythm
Flushing, a pounding sensation in the head, dizziness, headache
Decreased blood pressure
Tingling sensations in the arms or legs
Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant or could become pregnant during treatment. It isn't known if these drugs could harm the fetus.
WebMD Medical Reference: "Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depressive Disorder)."
WebMD Assess Plus: Bipolar Disorder Assessment.
National Institute for Mental Health: "Step-BD Womens Studies."
Massachusetts General Hospital Bipolar Clinic & Research Program.
MedicineNet.com: "Bipolar Disorder (Mania)."
WebMD Medical Reference: "Effects of Untreated Depression."
American Psychiatric Association: "Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Bipolar Disorder."
Joseph Goldberg, MD on October 02, 2012