Dilantin (phenytoin) is a popular anti-seizure control medication that has been around for more than a century, but it has only been recently that we have begun to understand some of the drug’s serious side effects, including a condition known as Dilantin toxicity, which can affect speech and movement.

Dilantin is typically prescribed for people suffering from tonic-clonic seizures that are symptomatic of epilepsy and partial seizures. It is an anticonvulsant that works in the brain to stop seizures. Common side effects include dizziness, confusion, headache, abnormal eye movement, tremors, loss of balance and slurred speech.

An uncommon but severe side effect of Dilantin use is Dilantin toxicity, which causes cerebral atrophy, or shrinking of the brain. Dilantin toxicity can affect the entire brain, or just parts of the brain, like the cerebellum, which controls movement and speech. When the cerebellum is affected, cerebellar atrophy can develop. It can cause tremors, slowed movement and other symptoms that compare to that of a stroke. Symptoms include slurred speech, jerky movements in the extremities (arms and legs), unsteady gait and small, rapid eye movement.

Although Dilantin toxicity is rarely fatal, it is serious and can have a devastating effect on the lives of people suffering from it. People who have been taking Dilantin for a long period of time are more susceptible to Dilantin toxicity, especially those on higher dosages.

Dilantin usage has also been named in lawsuits that claim the drug caused two serious skin reactions known as Stevens Johnson Syndrome (SJS) and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN). The first symptoms of SJS are very similar to the flu; however, after the flu symptoms stop, a skin rash consisting of red or purple blisters on the skins and in the mucous membranes of the body. The SJS rash kills the skin cells, causing large areas of skin to slough off.

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