Lexapro (Escitalopram): What are the Side Effects? Watch Before You Start!

Are you or a loved one suffering from depression
or anxiety? Has your doctor recommended you take Lexapro
or the generic version Escitatopram? Are you concerned about possible side effects? If so then this is the video for you. Keep watching to learn a little more about
what to watch out for and how this medication can be a help to you. Welcome to Family Med, I’m Dr. Richardson
and this is your home for practical and accurate information to help your family make healthy
decisions. This is the channel that focuses on bringing
better health to your home. On today’s episode we are going to be going
over a common antidepressant named Escitalopram or more commonly referred to as Lexapro. Escitalopram is the generic version of Lexapro
which was released in 2002. Lexapro is a medication that is used most
commonly to treat clinical depression and anxiety. It’s in the class of medications that we call
SSRI’s or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. These are a group of medications that target
the hormone Serotonin and help decrease how rapidly it is broken down in the nerves thus
keeping your serotonin levels higher. It’s one of the vital chemicals or neurotransmitters
that help regulate a lot of the functions of the body like mood, social behavior, appetite
and digestion, sleep, memory among other things. It is one of the chemicals that plays a big
role in depression and anxiety. When you are suffering from depression or
anxiety, in addition to things like eating healthy and exercise, counseling and therapy
and getting plenty of sleep, targeting these chemicals in the brain has been found to be
very helpful in allowing people to resume a normal life when they are battling with
these conditions. Let’s talk about who tends to benefit from
taking escitalopram. The first condition that we use it for is
clinical depression. With depression you tend to have symptoms
like difficulty concentrating, remembering things or making decisions. You may also suffer from fatigue, feelings
of guilt, worthlessness and helplessness. You may also feel hopeless, experience sleeping
problems, mood swings, have a loss of interest in things that you once enjoyed, appetite
changes, generalized pain, persistent sad or empty feelings or even suicidal thoughts
or attempts. For those who are going through anxiety you
may have symptoms such as sudden and unexplained onset of a rapid heart rate, sweating, trembling,
shortness of breath, pain in your chest, fear of dying, numbness and tingling throughout
your body or just generalized feeling of anxiousness all the time that you just can’t explain. If you are going through these symptoms you
need to seek help. You don’t have to live your whole life feeling
this way. Go see your doctor so you can get an accurate
diagnosis and figure out a good treatment plan for you. Remember depression and anxiety are as real
of a medical condition as diabetes or high blood pressure and you shouldn’t feel any
different about treating these conditions than you would any other medical condition. Ok, so you’ve talked to your doctor and you
both have decided that for your symptoms Lexapro is going to part of your treatment plan. What should you expect? Well, first of all it comes in a pill at doses
of 5, 10 and 20mg. Most people end up being on 10-20mg. It’s the kind of medication that you need
to take daily if you are going to be on it. Most people will start to notice some difference
within 1-2 weeks but it typically doesn’t reach its full effect for 4-6 weeks. So, you should be following up with your doctor
within 2-4 weeks after starting on it to report on how things are working. If you are going to be taking it, you want
to make sure that you are not missing a lot of doses. Doing so can really affect how well it’s going
to work and increase your risk of having side effects. Also, unless you’re having some significant
problems with the medication, especially after being on it a few weeks, you don’t want to
stop this medication abruptly. After being on it for a while your brain gets
used to a certain level of the Serotonin and stopping it quickly will really throw you
off and make you feel bad. Most doctors recommend that, if the medication
is working well, you take it for at least 6 months before you think about stopping it. Stopping it sooner than that, because you
feel like your depression or anxiety is gone, increases your risk for having your symptoms
return. If you feel like it is something that is making
a big difference in your life and you want to continue on it longer than the 6 months
then it is safe to do so. I have patients that have decided that they
need to stay on it for years and that works for them. So what kind of side effects should you look
out for? Well, as with any medication you can find
a big list of side effects that will be listed in the paperwork from your pharmacist. Sometimes these lists can be intimidating
but in the case of Lexapro it is generally well tolerated. I rarely have patients on it that want to
stop due to significant side effects. However, any medication has the potential
to having some side effects. Some common ones that are possible would be
some headaches, nausea, tiredness or difficulty sleeping, some dry mouth, constipation or
abdominal pain. These types of symptoms tend to be short lived
in most people and often times, by modifying when you take it or by taking it with food
you can improve or even avoid a lot of them. Usually with time, they start to get better
on their own. One area that concerns a lot of people is
the effect that antidepressants can have on your intimate relations. This can be a known problem with most antidepressants,
but I haven’t seen it quite as much with escitalopram as with other antidepressants. There are some ways that we can work with
that problem if it occurs so don’t stop it and talk to your doctor if that is a concern. Probably the most common reason I have somebody
stop this or any antidepressant medication is that they “didn’t like the way it made
them feel”. It may help with their depression or anxiety,
so they don’t feel sad anymore, but they don’t feel happy either. That certainly isn’t the goal of this kind
of treatment. Our goal is to help lift you up out of the
hole you are in and help you see that life is doable again. If we turn you into a zombie and you are neither
happy or sad we aren’t doing you any favors. We still want you to be happy when you are
supposed to be happy and sad when your supposed to be sad. So if you are noticing things like that then
talk to your doctor about other options that are out there. There are some rare side effects that you
need to pay more close attention to though. This is not an exhaustive list, however it’s
important to know that first, all antidepressant medication including escitalopram have the
risk of making your symptoms worse at first. You may be feeling really down right now,
but if all of a sudden your depression and anxiety get worse or you start having suicidal
thoughts you need to be in contact with your doctor and get help. I always recommend when starting these kinds
of medications that you confide in somebody you trust and tell them that you are taking
it. Let them know about these risks so they can
help you recognize what is happening and assist you in getting the help you need. Other rare side effects can be certain heart
arrythmias, electrolyte disturbances, allergic reactions and something called Serotonin syndrome
where your body gets too much serotonin. This is very rare but can present with symptoms
like agitation, confusion, rapid heart rate and high blood pressure, dilated pupils, loss
of muscle coordination, muscle rigidity, diarrhea and heavy sweating. If you think this is happening to you, get
into your doctor or the emergency room right away. The worst part about discussing the side effects
of medications is scaring you away from taking them. It’s important to keep the perspective that
the vast majority of people taking escitalopram do really well with minimal to no side effects. So, if you are deciding to not take a medication
like this due to a fear of having a very rare side effect, you can potentially be robbing
yourself from an important tool in treating this disease. Remember it’s important to keep the perspective
that if you are having a problem with the medication, you don’t need to stay on it. There are a lot of other options out there
so get with your doctor and talk to them about your concerns. Depression and anxiety can be a very debilitating
condition. Its as real as any other medical condition
out there. When you have a true clinical depression taking
something like Lexapro can be a life altering step. I’m always amazed at what a significant difference
this medication has had in the life of my patients. It’s certainly not for everybody and yes there
are other nonmedication options out there that may work for you. If, however, you and your doctor feel that
this is the best option for your treatment plan you now have a good foundation of knowledge
of what to expect and what kind of side effects to watch for. Having that information can be really powerful
in your life. This is not an all-inclusive discussion of
Lexapro. My purpose in sharing this information is
to help give information that you can think about and discuss with your own doctor. It’s not meant to give you direct medical
advice in your own personal situation. So, take this information and discuss it with
your own doctor. Overall, I hope you have found this information
to be helpful especially in taking away some of the stigma that surrounds taking medication
for mental health issues. To keep learning about other aspects of your
health check out my other videos. To learn about some simple steps in eating
healthier click here. To find out about simple ways to save a lot
of money on your healthcare click here. Go ahead and subscribe and let me know what
you think in the comments below. Until next time, this FamilyMed with Dr. Richardson
and remember to take care of your body because it’s the only one you have.