Officially approved by the FDA for use in August 2002, escitalopram is now used to treat both depression and anxiety. Part of a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), the drug helps balance the natural levels of serotonin in your brain.
The medication is typically prescribed for its ability to improve energy level and feelings of overall well-being; however, it is important to understand the potential escitalopram side effects as well as its functions to determine if it might be right for you.
What Is Escitalopram Used For?
Escitalopram is widely used to treat depression and generalized anxiety disorder or GAD. The drug is an antidepressant in the SSRI group. SSRIs function to increase levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and mental balance.
The drug was first developed by H. Lundbeck in conjunction with Forest Laboratories in 1997 as a treatment for depression. It was approved for use in Sweden in 2001, swiftly followed by the surrounding countries. In 2002, the FDA issues the first approval for its use in treating major depression, and then in 2003, for generalized anxiety disorder. The FDA later approved the medication for acute and maintenance treatment of depression for adolescents in 2009.
Many doctors prescribe escitalopram for its ability to alleviate the general symptoms of depression, including:
- Loss of interest in activities.
- Feelings of guilt.
- Lack of concentration.
The drug is also effective for easing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, such as:
- Difficulty concentrating.
Escitalopram Side Effects
Like any other medication escitalopram is not without its potential side effects. Because the drug is used to treat such a sensitive condition, though, it is important to understand the potential Escitalopram side effects and know what is cause for alarm.
In any case, it is important that you closely monitor your response to the medication and report any new or worsening symptoms to your doctor. It is particularly important for you to note any changes in mood or behavior, anxiety, panic attacks, difficulty sleeping, impulsivity, irritability, agitation, hostility, aggressiveness, restlessness, hyperactivity, or depression.
Serious Escitalopram Side Effects
Although not common, escitalopram may cause some serious side effects. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should call your doctor immediately:
- Stiff or rigid muscles.
- High fever.
- Rapid or uneven heartbeat.
- Felling of faintness.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Loss of appetite.
- Feeling unsteady or loss of coordination.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Memory issues.
- Shallow breathing.
Less Serious Escitalopram Side Effects
Although less serious, it’s also important to talk with your doctor if you experience:
- Drowsiness or dizziness.
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia).
- Mild nausea or upset stomach.
- Gas or heartburn.
- Changes in weight.
- Decreased sex drive.
- Difficulty reaching orgasm.
- Dry mouth.
- Ringing in your ears.
It is important to note that you may experience worsening escitalopram side effects or have thoughts of suicide when you first begin taking an antidepressant, particularly if you are younger than 24 years old. Be sure to keep regular appointments with your doctor through at least the first 12 weeks of your treatment and indicate any changes in symptoms.
Many medications can impact the way that escitalopram works. Escitalopram may also affect the way other medications work in your body.
It is important to give you doctor a comprehensive list of the medications you are currently taking, including any over-the-counter medications, supplements, herbs, or illegal drugs. Drugs or supplements that may interact with escitalopram include:
- St. John’s wort.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI), including isocarboxazid, selegiiline, and phenelzine.
- Pain medications, such as tramadol.
- Other SSRIs, including citalopram.
- Blood thinners, such as warfarin.
- Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), including ibuprofen and naproxen.
- Heartburn medication, such as cimetidine.
- Mental health medications, including lithium.
- Anti-seizure drugs, such as carbamazepine.
- Certain heart medications, like digoxin.
- Migraine medications, including almotriptan, eletriptan, and frovatriptan.
- Other antidepressants, including desipramine.
- Sedatives and sleeping aids, such as triazolam.
- The HIV drug ritonavir.
- Some antifungal medications, including ketoconazole.
- The antibiotic linezolid.
Escitalopram and Alcohol
Combining alcohol and escitalopram will increase the negative effects of the medication on your cognitive and motor skills. You should not drink alcohol while taking escitalopram. Escitalopram may cause you to feel tired and affect your judgement, cognition, and motor skills, so you should also avoid driving or operating machinery until you know how you will respond to the medication.
Other Considerations Regarding Escitalopram
You should thoroughly read the medication guide and patient information leaflet available through your pharmacist prior to starting escitalopram. Likewise, if you have questions about your dosage or how to take the medication, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Escitalopram should be taken by mouth with or without food as indicated by your doctor. Most individuals have a scheduled morning and evening dosage that is determine by your medical condition, response to treatment, age, and current medications.
If you are taking the liquid form of escitalopram, it is important to use the designated measuring spoon or device. Do not use a household spoon as you may not get the recommended dose.
To reduce your risk of side effects, your physician may suggest you begin taking the medication at a low dosage and gradually increase it. Follow your doctor’s prescribed instructions very carefully. Do not adjust your dose unless directed, and do not take the drug more often or longer than advised. Should you choose to do so, your condition will not improve any faster, and your risk of side effects will increase.
To get the most benefit from this medication, take it regularly and as indicated. Taking the medicine at the same time each day may also help you remember to take it.
Continue to take escitalopram even if you begin to feel well. Do not stop or change your medication without consulting your doctor first. It may take as long as 1 to 2 weeks to begin to feel a benefit and up to 4 weeks to feel the full benefits of this drug.
Escitalopram is an effective antidepressant that can be used to treat depression as well as general anxiety. While it can relieve the symptoms of depression and anxiety, some side effects are to be expected. Most of the Escitalopram side effects are mild and go away within a few days; however, it is important to tell your doctor if your symptoms worsen or do not improve.
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