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Cymbalta: Cause For Concern?

Medically reviewed on Apr 4, 2018 by C. Fookes, BPharm

Treatment of Depression, Anxiety, and Chronic Pain

Cymbalta (duloxetine) is taken by millions of people worldwide. Used to treat depression and anxiety, Cymbalta is also approved to relieve pain caused by nerve damage, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and lower back injury.

Cymbalta works to rebalance certain chemicals in the brain that are connected with depression, anxiety and pain. Numerous studies have proven its worth, but just how significant are its potential harms?

Cymbalta May Be Difficult to Stop

Most antidepressant drugs are associated with some withdrawal symptoms. However, withdrawal symptoms from Cymbalta are so common that doctors have given the symptoms their own term: Cymbalta Discontinuation Syndrome.

In fact, hundreds of law suits have been filed against Eli Lilly, the makers of Cymbalta, claiming that they downplayed or failed to state that withdrawal symptoms associated with Cymbalta were common and significant.

Claimants state that discontinuation caused emotional turmoil and result in unanticipated medical costs, lost hours from work and ongoing anguish.

Withdrawal Effects Can Be Severe

Withdrawal effects vary individually. Some experts estimate roughly 50% of people discontinuing Cymbalta will have withdrawal symptoms.

Minor withdrawal symptoms include nausea, headache and dizziness. Severe symptoms include seizures, nightmares and electrical shock sensations (described by some as "zaps" around your body, which may be paresthesias).

These effects can last for weeks, and may force some people to restart therapy before a more gradual discontinuation. The FDA instructed Eli Lilly to be more transparent in their delivery of benefits vs. risks for Cymbalta and to recommend a protocol for stopping Cymbalta.

Increased Risk of Suicidal Thoughts Possible

Studies have shown an association between antidepressant treatment (including Cymbalta-like antidepressants) and an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior, particularly in people under 25 years or age and more often in the early phases of treatment.

Regardless of age, all patients who are started on Cymbalta should be monitored for a worsening of their depression, or for the emergence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. See a doctor right away if there is any cause for concern.

Short-Term Memory Loss and Brain Fog

Although studies have not reported any detrimental effects on brain function and memory, blog sites tell a different story, anecdotally.

A lack of short-term memory, difficulty in concentrating, and feeling like their brain is in a "fog" are just some of the complaints experienced by people taking Cymbalta.

Do not drive or operate machinery if Cymbalta makes you drowsy or sedated, or until you are reasonably certain the drug does not affect your ability to do these things.

Anger and Hostility Reported

Although Cymbalta is often used for anxiety, in some people it may have the opposite effect and cause tension and restlessness. Some people may find themselves more frustrated, irritable or lacking in patience when taking the drug. Occasionally this can escalate to open hostility towards others, extreme agitation and even mania. These effects may be more apparent early on in treatment or after discontinuation.

Try relaxation techniques to calm you down. If these do not make any difference or you feel your symptoms are unbearable or getting worse you may need to discuss changing your medicine with a doctor.

Side Effects Include Extreme Sweating

Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) is another common side effect of Cymbalta, occurring in over 7 percent of patients. Reports of soaking through T-shirts 24 hours a day, or extremely sweaty palms or feet may force treatment discontinuation in some people.

Cymbalta may also cause vision changes, a dry mouth, nausea and interact with a number of other drugs. It is also not suitable for some people with liver disease, bleeding or seizure disorders, or high blood pressure.

Leg Jerks, Muscle Twitches, and Rarely Seizures

Seizures are listed as a rare but serious side effect of Cymbalta, occurring in roughly 3 out of every 10,500 patients. But more subtle effects, such as restless legs, muscle twitches or spasms, or leg jerks may be experienced by a larger number of people.

Some notice these effects after they have been on Cymbalta for a while, whereas others report these effects on discontinuation. People who already have a seizure disorder may be at greater risk of having a seizure while taking Cymbalta.

Loss of Sex Drive Can Occur With Most Antidepressants:

Many antidepressants have detrimental effects on sexual function and Cymbalta is no exception. Males are more likely to be affected and decreases in libido, abnormal orgasms and erectile dysfunction have all been reported.

Most effects disappeared with treatment discontinuation. If sexual dysfunction occurs while you are taking an antidepressant like Cymbalta, be sure to talk to your doctor who may suggest an alternative treatment.

Bupropion (Wellbutrin), trazodone (Desyrel) or nefazodone (Serzone) are less likely to cause sexual dysfunction

Finished: Cymbalta - Cause For Concern?

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Sources

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Further information

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