Sunday, 20 October 2013

Side Effects of Antidepressants

Antidepressants do have side effects and if you are prescribed these medications, make sure your doctor discuss them with you. I will discuss the side effects of some of the usual classes of antidepressants used. It is also interesting to note that even sugar pills can cause side effects, read more about it here.

1. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI)

These include Escitalopram, Setraline and Fluoxetine.

SSRIs are probably the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants. SSRIs are safe and used in various age groups from children to elderlies. They are not only given in clinical depression (description of clinical depression click here) but also in other disorders such as anxiety disorders and even in anger management.

Common side effects of SSRIs include:

- Tummy discomfort
- Nausea
- Headaches
- Drowsiness
- Anxiety

These side effects are usually transient and are worst in the first 4-5 days. In the long term, some people may experience gaining weight or sexual dysfunction with SSRIs. However these are reversible once the medication is stopped.

2. Selective Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor (SNRI)

These include Duloxetine and Venlafaxine.

SNRIs are newer antidepressants. They have the advantage of also working on the norepinephric neurotransmitters in the brain as well. Their side effects profile are similar to SSRIs but they are more likely to cause nausea, dry mouth and excessive perspiration. Venlafaxine may increase blood pressure and your blood pressure should be monitored if you are given this medication by your doctor.

3. Tricyclics Antidepressants (TCAs)

This is an older class of medication and include Amitriptylline and Clomipramine.

They are more likely to cause side effects like:

- somnolence
- drowsiness
- dry mouth
- constipation
- difficulty passing urine
- blurred vision
-weight gain

TCAs can be dangerous in overdose as they can cause heart irregularities. For this reason, they are seldom used these days.

REMEMBER: In any medical treatment, your doctor will consider and discuss with you the benefits and risks of the treatment as well as any alternatives available. Whilst antidepressants can cause side effects, they have been shown irrevocably to save lives and prevent suicide. During the initial phase of treatment, your doctor will monitor you closely for any side effects and to make any necessary adjustments to the dosage or to change the medication altogether.

Studies have also shown that only 40% of patients with side effects will tell their doctors. So if you have side effects with medication bothering you, do let your doctor know so that he can better tailor his treatment for you!