Antidepressant medications are used by more than 13 percent of the adult US population. Use of medications to treat depression is reportedly higher among women when compared with men. Different types of antidepressants are typically prescribed to handle different conditions and symptoms. Commonly prescribed categories include SSRIs, SNRIs, NASSAs, TCAs, and MAOIs. Venlafaxine belongs to the serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor class of medications and is commonly prescribed to treat various conditions, including depression, anxiety and panic attacks. While it is considered as relatively safe with a better side effects profile, side effects of venlafaxine are a possibility. Here is a good look at the side effects of venlafaxine and the best methods to handle/mitigate the effects.
Overview and side effects of venlafaxine
A better understanding of the drug and its mechanism of action helps in learning all about the side effects of venlafaxine. The medication is used for assisting individuals recover quickly from depression and as mentioned above has a better side effects profile than other antidepressant medications. Available in oral formulations, it typically requires around one and a half month for results to be experienced. Most side effects associated the medication are expected to resolve in a few weeks, and are generally mild in nature.
High-risk category of individuals who need to take precautions prior to taking venlafaxine
To prevent side effects of venlafaxine it is essential to identify individuals in high-risk category and to ensure that adequate precautions are taken. For instance, individuals with pre-existing heart ailments are at risk of experiencing a change in heartbeat as a result of the medication. Similarly, individuals with a history of allergies to certain medications are at risk of ending up with allergies as a result of the medication. Patients with glaucoma are exposed to the risk of increased pressure in the eyes as a result of the mechanism of action of the medication. Pregnant women or women who are planning a pregnancy are also in the category of high-risk individuals and require medical advice prior to taking the medication. Patients with a history of epilepsy are at risk of experiencing more seizures as a result of the medication. Finally, diabetics are also at risk of ending up with unstable blood sugar levels as a result of the mechanism of action of venlafaxine. Individuals with diabetes are advised to frequently and periodically monitor blood sugar levels and control the same as required.
Recommended dosage to prevent side effects of venlafaxine
One of the most common reasons for side effects of venlafaxine is incorrect dosage and frequency of taking the medication. The medication is available as either immediate release formulations or extended-release formulations. It is important to bear in mind that the recommended dosage is intended as a reference, and the actual dosage for patients will depend on various parameters. This could change from person to person depending on the age of the patient, the severity of the condition and other conditions/medications. On an average, the initial dosage of venlafaxine is 75 mg per day and this would be increased gradually to a maximum of 375 mg per day. The dosage may be reduced depending on complications in the kidneys or the liver.
Patients who miss a dose are advised to take the next dose at the appointed time, without any attempt to correct the skipped dose. Overdose symptoms of venlafaxine include feeling drowsy, a sudden increase in heart beat, possible instances of seizures, and vomiting sensations. Individuals who experience symptoms that indicate possible overdose are advised to seek medical intervention at the earliest. This will help prevent side effects of venlafaxine.
Commonly reported side effects of venlafaxine
Without exception, all medications result in side effects that could be attributed to either the mechanism of action of the medication or the ingredients. Similarly, individuals on venlafaxine could also experience possible side effects that may vary in intensity and duration depending on various conditions. Most side effects of venlafaxine are minor in nature and resolve in a short period of time. However, in rare instances the side effects may be moderate in nature and may last longer. Depending on the intensity and the duration of the side effects it may be necessary to seek medical intervention in certain instances. Here is a compilation of the commonly reported side effects of venlafaxine.
Individuals on the medication are likely to feel sick as a result of the side effects of venlafaxine. Other commonly reported side effects include constipation that may require medication for resolving the condition. Patients may also feel drowsy due to the effects of the medication, while some may have difficulty falling asleep. The possibility of experiencing throbbing headaches cannot be ruled out, while some patients reportedly experience sweating as a result of the side effects of venlafaxine. Finally, a small section of individuals may also end up with a dry mouth when on the medication.
Side effects of venlafaxine that are relatively serious in nature
While the side effects of venlafaxine mentioned above are common and mild in nature, there is also the possibility of a very small section of patients experiencing side effects that are relatively serious in nature. For instance, it may be necessary for patients to seek emergency medical attention or care at a healthcare facility when certain conditions manifest. Pain in the chest or dizziness that is not attributed to any other condition, is an indication of a possible adverse effect. Similarly, individuals who experience shortness of breath when on the medication, are also expected to seek medical attention. There is the likelihood of patients experiencing abnormal heart beat rate or pattern when on the medication, and this warrants medical intervention. A faint feeling or feelings of passing out are also indications of side effects of venlafaxine that require attention at a healthcare facility.
Patients are also advised to immediately seek medical assistance when bleeding is unstoppable. For instance, nose bleeds and cuts due to any reason, that do not seem to be brought under control require medical attention. Symptoms that one needs to look for include throbbing headaches, and an overall weak feeling. Patients who frequently experience cramps in the muscle are also cautioned to seek medical attention. This indicates that there is a possible decrease in sodium levels in the blood. It is important to take note that extremely low levels of sodium in the blood can result in incidents of seizure.
Other symptoms that are indicative of side effects of venlafaxine include euphoric feelings for no particular reason. Individuals who exhibit enthusiasm of excitement at abnormally high levels, could be symptomatic of side effects. Similarly, restless feelings and the inability to stay put at one place – either standing or seated – are also symptomatic of possible side effects. These conditions may require medical attention when the condition is intense in nature and when it extends for a long duration. When the complexion of the skin turns yellowish or if the whites of the eyes turn yellow, this could reflect issues in the liver. This could be a complication attributed to the medication. Patients who experience change in vision, for instance, dilation of pupils or blurring of eyesight, are also advised to seek medical intervention. There is a possibility of patients experiencing bleeding from the gums, or bruising that is not attributed to any particular reason. This abnormal condition is also an indication of possible side effects of venlafaxine. Finally, patients who witness traces of blood in the urine, or faeces, or individuals who vomit blood or find traces of blood in vomit are advised to seek medical attention at the earliest.
Symptoms that need monitoring
Certain symptoms may be witnessed by patients and this will help to easily identify conditions or side effects of venlafaxine. For instance, a sudden gain in weight, or a rapid loss in weight that is not attributed to any special routine or lifestyle modification, could be an indication of possible side effects of venlafaxine. Similarly, women who experience changes in periods, including heavy abnormal bleeding, or bleeding outside of periods are also expected to seek medical attention. There is also the possibility of individuals experiencing allergic reactions to the medication. Reactions that have been reported in the past include anaphylaxis. Symptoms that patients need to look out for include sudden wheezing, or difficulty when breathing. Other symptoms include a tightening feeling in the chest/throat, or rashes on the skin. Visible symptoms include inflammation/swelling of the lips, the face, the mouth and tongue. Other visible symptoms include skin that peels or appears swollen, and breakout of blisters on the skin.
Remedial measures to mitigate side effects of venlafaxine
There are simple remedial measures to handle most of the mild side effects of venlafaxine. When the effects are moderate or intense in nature, it may be necessary to seek medical attention at the earliest. For other conditions including sickness or headaches, there are easy methods to mitigate. For instance, taking medication with food or after food will help when the individual feels sick. Similarly, individuals who experience headaches are advised to consume plenty of fluids and abstain from alcohol consumption. In most cases, headaches resolve naturally after a week or so, after commencing venlafaxine. In other instances, remedies include chewing gum to alleviate dry mouth, and increased intake of fibre in diet to treat constipation. Individuals who experience dizzy feelings when rising from a seated or reclining position are advised to rise slowly, or to remain seated for a short time before rising from a fully reclining position. Patients on other medications for pre-existing conditions are advised to clearly inform the healthcare specialist about medications and conditions, including consumption of supplements and herbal formulations.