Anxiety and depression are common outcomes of mental conditions which show up in the form of fear and stress. A wide range of medications are available to treat such mental disorders. Drugs belonging to a family of meds called as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed to treat anxieties. Escitalopram belongs to this class of meds; it is used as part of medication plans prescribed to treat depressive conditions as well as mood-related disorders. This drug may however trigger a few adverse side effects. A basic knowledge of the likely discomforts and side effects can be very helpful to manage them in a proactive manner.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are used for the treatment of a variety of mental conditions, including social anxieties, panic, mood shifts as well as a few milder forms of depression. In many of these disorders, SSRIs are often considered as the first option in treatment plans. This class of antidepressants are also prescribed to treat excessive eating or binge-eating problems. Though long term efficacy is not fully documented, these drugs are known to yield needful results when used over a shorter span of time.

Escitalopram is an antidepressant drug which comes under the genre of SSRIs. Its use is mainly restricted to GAD or generalized anxiety as well as depressive disorders. It is orally administered among people living with such mood-related conditions. In fact, it has the approval from the food and drug administration (FDA) to treat anxiety among adults as well as depression in teens and adults.

Clinical studies on this drug’s efficacy indicate its moderate superiority to its predecessor drugs – especially, meds like citalopram. This drug works by halting the reabsorption of neurotransmitters like serotonin. By doing this, it ensures a fine balance of neuro-transmitting agents in your brain. When compared with similar types of SSRIs, this drug exhibits a relatively high level of selectivity for serotonin. This property makes its side effects less severe than many other antidepressants of the SSRI genre. In general, escitalopram helps boost your energies and brings about a feeling of overall wellbeing. Many users have also reported a marked reduction in restlessness as well as agitation.

Side effects of escitalopram

It is important to continue taking this drug even after noticing a few positive results; some people may discontinue the doses once they witness the first signs of relief. Such discontinuation is not a good practice. Instead, you may have to continue using escitalopram even upon witnessing a few fruitful outcomes. It is very important to talk to your treating doctor and take advice on when to stop using this drug. Majority of those who discontinued it all of a sudden noticed acute spells of headache, altered sleeping patterns, mood shifts, etc. In order to avoid such adverse side effects, your physician may slowly reduce the strength of doses.

Common side effects

The most common side effects of escitalopram include sleeping problems, dehydration or drying of lips, nausea, sudden changes in your bowel movements, weariness, etc. Adverse side effects like sweating profusely as well as feeling dizzy or drowsy may also show up. Most of these adverse reactions may cease to show up after a few days – i.e., when your system gets used to the active ingredients. But, if these reactions persist for long, you are advised to consult the pharmacist or your treating physician without delay. Also, it may take a few weeks for the results to show up. In some instances, it can take upto 30 days for the drug to yield all its benefits. However, if your condition is not improving for more than 5 weeks, you may need to talk to your physician immediately.

A few serious side effects of escitalopram

In some people, this drug has caused a few serious side effects. These include decrease in libido, internal bleeding, frequent episodes of bruising, convulsions, etc. A very small segment of users witnessed acute reactions such as inflammation, dilation of pupils, changes in eyesight, passing out or fainting. Some of the dangerous signs are rapid pulse rates, erratic heartbeats and pain in eyes. Escitalopram may also cause a syndrome known as serotonin toxicity. This is more likely to occur if you are consuming a few other SSRIs or similar types of antidepressants. This syndrome can show up in the form of weird dreams or thoughts, acute levels of dizziness, persistent spells of vomiting or nausea. You may also observe involuntary muscular twitches as well as a feeling of being agitated or nervousness.

Serious allergies

In general, escitalopram is unlikely to cause any major allergic reactions. It is a good practice to tell your doctor about all prior allergies. However, in some rare instances, some people experienced allergies like hives, itchiness, rashes on skin, breathing difficulties (wheezing, shortness of breath or gasping), inflammation of facial or oral organs, etc. Among some men, escitalopram can cause stretched periods of erection. Such episodes may at times last for 3 to 5 hours. This is a very dangerous sign, and may cause near-fatal outcomes. You are advised to seek medical help immediately because such erection can permanently impair your vital organs like heart, kidneys, etc.

Intake of escitalopram and risks of prolonged QT

Prior incidence of an uncommon syndrome called hyponatremia – i.e., presence of a very low of sodium in your blood – will need to be informed to the treating physician. It is equally important to notify your medical team if your family’s health history includes instances of suicides as well as depression or other mood-based mental conditions. Also, this drug is likely to prolong the QT cycle of heartbeats. Such a prolonged cycle can lead to erratic heartbeats, dizziness, loss of control of muscles as well as passing out. These are unlikely to lead to fatal outcomes; but, you may need to take medical help on an emergency mode upon experiencing any of these signs.

Prolonged QT can also result in a serious condition if you are already having cardiac ailments such as recent heart arrests, slow down of pulse rates and above all, if your family has a clinical track record of cardiac dysfunction. Also, if you are taking water pills (or diuretics), if you are sweat profusely or experiencing potential loss of fluids through vomiting or diarrhea – you may witness acute spells of prolonged QT. In short, a loss of essential salts like magnesium as well as potassium is directly linked to impairment of the QT cycle.

Safety measures to be taken while consuming this drug

This drug is consumed either before or after a meal. The standard dose is once each day. Usually, no two people are prescribed with the same dosage plan. Doses may vary based on your age, prior medical conditions and based on how well your body responds to this drug. If you are living with conditions like hepatic disorders (such as hepatitis or cirrhosis), epileptic fits, convulsions, spasms, internal bleeding as well as ulcerous conditions, eye problems such as glaucoma, etc. your doctor needs to know about such ailments.

Prior to a surgery or a dental procedure

As dizziness is a common side effect, taking this drug along with anesthetic drugs can make you more drowsy or dizzy. So, if you are planning to go for a surgery, tell your surgical team about the intake of escitalopram. It is quite likely that your surgeon may advise discontinuation of this drug for at least 3 weeks prior to surgical intervention. Similarly, if you are planning to opt for a dental procedure, keep your dentist informed of your medication plan. Your dentist may advise you to stop taking escitalopram for a period of 14 days before the date of dental intervention.

Treatment plans you are currently pursuing as well as your present medication plans can also influence the strength of doses. This drug is also available in a liquid form. If you are taking its liquid variant, always use the measuring device, spoon or ladle provided along with the pack. In order to decrease the risks of adverse reactions, the starting doses are often kept at a very low level. Based on the initial responses, doses are increased in a slow and steady manner.

Intake of alcohol or other intoxicants

If you have habits such as regular intake of alcohol and / or intoxicants like cannabis (i.e., marijuana), your doctor needs to be kept informed. The chances of getting dizzy or drowsy are high with the intake of escitalopram. Intake of intoxicants while consuming this drug can aggravate dizziness levels. As a safety measure, you are not advised to drive or operate heavy equipment after taking this drug. In general, it is not safe to perform activities that demand a high level of focus and concentration.

Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding

This drug may be unsafe to your fetus. Hence, it is rarely administered to women who are pregnant – especially, during the last trimester of your pregnancy. Infants born to women who took this drug before the last trimester of pregnancy may develop a few adverse symptoms. These symptoms may include persistent spells of crying, stiffening of muscles, spasms, respiratory problems, etc. Also, the active ingredients of this drug may pass through mother’s milk. So, women who are nursing a baby must never take this drug. Above all, it is important to consult your treating doctor about risks faced by mothers as well as feeding infants.

Last but not least, it is very important to note that the above list of allergies and adverse side effects of escitalopram do not constitute a full list of likely discomforts. It is hence possible to experience a few discomforts which are not listed here. Upon sensing these unknown or unlisted allergies and side effects, you need to get in touch with 911 immediately. Those living in US can also contact a local poison control unit. People who are residents of any of the Canadian provinces can either call Health Canada or talk to a poison control center located in your province.

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