In the US, around 13 percent of the adult population use antidepressant medication once a month. Patterns and statistics reveal that more women than men use antidepressants and that the use of antidepressants increases with age. Different types of medications are presently used as antidepressants – for instance, MAOIs, tricyclic antidepressants, SNRIs and SSRIs. Among these medications SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are considered as popular and effective antidepressants. As a result of the mechanism of action of antidepressants, the possibility of side effects exists. Here is a look at the side effects of Prozac to help manage and mitigate the adverse effects.

Overview and side effects of Prozac

Before looking at the side effects of Prozac it is essential to understand more about the drug and its mechanism of action. In use for more than three decades, and belonging to the category of SSRIs, Prozac is used for treating/managing acute, major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and various other conditions. The medication is also used as combination therapy for conditions including bipolar disorder, treatment resistant depression and alcohol dependence. Additionally, the medication is also used for premature ejaculation, panic disorder and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

Mechanism of action and side effects of Prozac

Fluoxetine, popularly known by the brand name Prozac works by preventing the reuptake or absorption of serotonin. As a result of the prevention of the absorption, the levels of 5-HT are maintained in the brain at the right levels. The monoamine neurotransmitters have a primary function of controlling mood, and various functions. For instance, serotonin is responsible for memory, cognitive abilities, vasoconstriction and ability to memorize. Reduced levels of 5-HT create conditions that require intervention. Prozac helps to maintain the right levels of 5-HT by ensuring that it is not absorbed in the presynaptic terminal.

By virtue of the mechanism of action, side effects of Prozac manifest in patients, thereby requiring treatment. The drug has relatively lesser side effects and better tolerability because of the selective inhibition. For instance, the drug does not bind or prevent certain receptors such as dopaminergic, histamine, cholinergic, adrenergic and muscarinic. Asa a result of this selective inhibition, side effects of Prozac are considered as less when compared with other antidepressant medications. Patients diagnosed with depression are known to have lesser levels of serotonin in the cerebrospinal fluid. By maintaining/regulating the level of serotonin, the medication helps patients manage the symptoms of depression better.

Frequently reported side effects of Prozac

There are two types of side effects of Prozac – frequent side effects that are not serious in nature and infrequent side effects that require medical attention. Side effects that are frequent in nature not serious and are known to resolve naturally in a short period without the need for special attention. However, when common or frequent side effects persist for long or when the side effects are intense in nature, it is necessary to seek medical assistance. This is important as it may prevent the side effects from turning into more serious conditions.

The commonly reported side effects of Prozac include reduced interest in sexual activities and difficulty in achieving an orgasm. Individuals are likely to experience strange dreams, lose appetite, or end up with feelings of anxiety and weakness. Patients may exhibit nervousness, have frequent bouts of diarrhea, and have difficulty in falling asleep. Dryness in the mouth is another side effect of the condition, while a section of patients are susceptible to catching the flu. Indigestion and nausea are relatively common side effects. Patients may witness the outbreak of rashes on the body, while the throat may turn sore. There is the possibility of a watery discharge from the nose, and patients are also likely to experience abnormally high sweating and hot flashes. Individuals could end up yawning a lot, while also experiencing more tremors in specific parts of the body.

Here is a look at serious side effects of Prozac that need medical attention to prevent the conditions from manifesting into more serious complications. For instance, individuals are likely to experience serotonin syndrome, mania and end up low salt levels. (All three conditions are explained in detail below). Patients are likely to experience abnormally high levels of bleeding, with bleeding occurring as a result of bruising and cutting that is more frequent than usual. Patients are also known to have seizures as a result of the medication. By virtue of the mechanism of action of the drug, patients are known to develop seizures or convulsions.

Common side effects of Prozac that need to be monitored carefully

There are certain side effects of Prozac that need to be monitored with care to prevent conditions from manifesting to serious complications. For instance, Prozac is known to cause serotonin syndrome, mania and result in low salt levels. It is therefore necessary to manage the conditions with great care. Here is a detailed look at the three conditions.

Serotonin syndrome – The term serotonin syndrome may sound or appear to be harmless. However, it is necessary to know that the syndrome can result in a life endangering condition. As a result of certain medications that control the absorption of serotonin, the levels of the monoamine neurotransmitter shoots up in the body. Consequently, there could be adverse reactions that range from hallucinations, difficult in routine coordinated activities, increased pace of heart beat, and agitated behavior. Other symptoms associated with the condition include fever, vomiting sensations, reflexes that are abnormally very active, and diarrhea. The side effects of Prozac that result in this condition are typically managed by modifying the dose, and whenever required, specialists prescribe serotonin blockers to keep the levels of serotonin low in the body. In a large number of cases, individuals are put on modified dosages to prevent serotonin syndrome.

Mania – Prozac is likely to cause mania among certain patients. This is a dose dependent side effect and mania is identified by symptoms that include abnormally high levels of energy, increased pace of speech, uncontrollable thoughts that race, difficulty in sleeping and tendency to get irritated. Individuals are likely to exhibit behavior that is driven by elevated moods, and indulge in risky behavior. For instance, individuals may end up spending large amounts of money for no reason, and may try out unsafe sexual activities and not heeding the call for precaution.

Reduced levels of salt in the body – Among the side effects of Prozac, low salt levels in the body count as adverse reactions. The levels of salt in the body may end up at considerably lower levels and this could turn out to be serious in nature. Possible symptoms that are indicative of low salt levels include sudden headache, difficulty in focussing, and the inability to memorize. Individuals are likely to have stability issues and may exhibit confusion in even routine actions. General weakness is a possibility, and patients are likely to feel drowsy, with rapid onset of fatigue.

Additional warning/caution about side effects of Prozac

In addition to the above side effects of Prozac it is also essential to understand that there could also be interactions with other drugs. For instance, patients on MAOIs are not to take the drug. The gap between both ending MAOI and commencing Prozac should be more than two weeks. Similarly, the gap between Prozac and MAOI should be atleast five weeks. The drug is also known to have interactions with other SSRIs, SNRIs, tricyclic antidepressants, amphetamines, and opioids. Intimate the treating specialist about other medications being used for treatments.


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