Depression affects millions of people around the globe and has long been treated with antidepressants. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, one out of four Americans take an antidepressant daily to deal with anxiety, depression, personality and other mental health related issues.
One such antidepressant prescribed widely for treating depression in the US is Lexapro, generically known as escitalopram. Belonging to the category of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), Lexapro works by increasing the levels of serotonin (neurotransmitter) in the brain. While serotonin serves many roles within your brain, it’s chief purpose is to balance the mood.
This is why Lexapro is prescribed for everything, from depression, anxiety disorders and panic attacks to obsessive compulsive disorders and other mental issues. However, with its much-added effects, continuous use of this antidepressant is also known to trigger unwanted side effects. Apart from the regular side effects of nausea, dizziness, constipation, dry mouth, sexual problems, and insomnia, Lexapro also has other, major side effects. We highlight a few of them for you.
Suicidal Thoughts: Like several antidepressants, Lexapro carries a black box warning since it is associated with an increased risk of suicide. Such behavior is most commonly seen in adolescent and teenage patients who take Lexapro for a major depressive disorder. Make sure you call your physician if you or your family members report new and sudden changes in mood, thoughts or actions.
Weight Gain: The popular antidepressant has been associated with drastic changes in the weight, with patients reporting a sudden drop in weight when they first start with Lexapro. However, the prescription has also resulted in excessive weight gain in some. Experts believe that this could be due to fluid retention, lack of exercise, increased appetite, or other factors. Make sure to get your daily dose of exercise and stick to a healthy diet if you’re taking Lexapro.
Allergic Reactions: The FDA drug safety report on Lexapro mentions severe allergic reactions as one of the side effects of the drug. The document notes troubled breathing, swollen face, hands, tongue, eyes and even mouth as some of the most common allergic manifestations. Some people may also develop a rash or itchy welts along with fever and severe joint pain.
Seizures Or Convulsions
Seizures Or Convulsions: Just a single dose of a Lexapro can quickly alter the way brain cells communicate with one another which have been linked with convulsions and seizures. Concomitant use of this drug can also cause serotonin syndrome which can result in agitation, hallucinations, overactive reflexes and even coma.
Sexual Dysfunction: SSRIs cause sexual impairment in terms of performance and a generalized lack of interest, which is called post SSRI sexual dysfunction. Men report problems with erection and premature ejaculation while using antidepressants. While these effects seem to fade away, they can last for a very long time even after discontinuation.
Birth Defects: Research has revealed that there could be a link between prenatal exposure to SSRIs and autism spectrum disorders or developmental delays. Lexapro may harm a developing fetus if the mother is on medication during pregnancy. This antidepressant can also pass into the breast milk of the mother and harm the baby. Hence, if you are a woman and are looking to get pregnant, are pregnant or nursing a baby, speak to your doctor about it.