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Escitalopram Patient Tips

Medically reviewed on Jul 24, 2017 by C. Fookes, BPharm.

How it works

  • Escitalopram is used in the treatment of anxiety and depression. Experts aren't sure exactly how it works although research suggests it increases levels of serotonin in the brain by preventing the reuptake of serotonin by nerves, leading to an increase in serotonin concentrations within the nerve synapse (space between two nerves).
  • Escitalopram belongs to a group of medications known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).

Upsides

  • Used to relieve depression and anxiety in adults.
  • May also be used to treat depression in teenagers aged 12 through 17.
  • Less likely to cause drowsiness than some other antidepressants.
  • Has also been used off-label for other conditions such as panic disorder and post traumatic stress disorder.
  • SSRIs in general, are better tolerated than many other medicines used in the treatment of depression.
  • May be more effective with less adverse effects than other SSRIs.
  • Generic escitalopram is available.

Downsides

If you are between the ages of 18 and 60, take no other medication or have no other medical conditions, side effects you are more likely to experience include:

  • Drowsiness or insomnia, diarrhea, headache, sexual dysfunction, and nausea are reasonably common side effects. Side effects are generally mild and transient and more common during the first two weeks of treatment.
  • Dizziness, fatigue, constipation, indigestion, dry mouth and increased sweating may also occur.
  • An increased risk of suicidal thoughts, especially in young adults (similar to other antidepressants).
  • A discontinuation syndrome if abruptly stopped or interrupted (symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, dizziness, sweating, chills, tremors, vivid dreams, and insomnia); taper off dosage slowly over several weeks to months.
  • May impair your judgment and affect your ability to drive or operate machinery. Avoid alcohol.
  • Interaction or overdosage may cause serotonin syndrome (symptoms include mental status changes [such as agitation, hallucinations, coma, delirium]), fast heart rate, dizziness, flushing, muscle tremor or rigidity and stomach symptoms (including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea). Another serious syndrome called Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome as also been reported; symptoms include high body temperature, muscle rigidity, and mental disturbances; discontinue immediately and seek urgent medical advice.
  • May increase risk of bleeding, especially if used with other drugs that also increase bleeding risk.
  • May precipitate a manic episode in people with undiagnosed bipolar disorder.
  • May cause lowering of total body sodium (called hyponatremia); elderly people or people taking diuretics or already dehydrated may be more at risk.
  • The risk of interactions may be less than with other antidepressants.

Notes: In general, seniors or children, people with certain medical conditions (such as liver or kidney problems, heart disease, diabetes, seizures) or people who take other medications are more at risk of developing a wider range of side effects. For a complete list of all side effects, click here.

Bottom Line

Escitalopram relieves depression and anxiety and may have less potential for side effects than some other antidepressants

Tips

  • Take once a day in the morning or evening, with or without food. Allow at least a week before increasing dosage under a doctors advice if needed.
  • Escitalopram should make up one component of a total treatment plan for depression or anxiety that includes other nondrug components such as counseling, education, and social support.
  • Report to your doctor any mood changes such as agitation or greatly increased energy, signs of worsening of depression or suicidal thoughts particularly during the first few months of therapy. Also, monitor for serotonin syndrome, symptoms include agitation, hallucinations, coma, fast heart rate, dizziness, flushing, muscle tremor or rigidity and stomach symptoms (including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea).
  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any other medications with escitalopram, including NSAIDs or St. John's Wort as these may interact.
  • Talk with your doctor if you notice it takes longer than normal for cuts to stop bleeding. Also, discuss any persistent headaches or episodes of weakness or confusion.
  • Report any changes in vision, redness or swelling around the eye or eye pain.
  • Do not stop suddenly as withdrawal symptoms may occur.
  • Even though escitalopram is unlikely to cause drowsiness, be cautious driving or operating machinery until you know how this drug affects you. Alcohol may potentiate these effects.

Response and Effectiveness

  • Escitalopram is the active isomer of citalopram. Peak blood levels are reached approximately 5 hours after a dose but it may take up to a week for levels to become stabilized in the body. An improvement in depressive or anxiety symptoms may not be noticed for 1-4 weeks. Treatment should be continued as directed even after improvement.

References

Escitalopram [Package Insert]. Revised 05/2017. Taro Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc. https://www.drugs.com/pro/escitalopram-tablets.html

  • Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use escitalopram only for the indication prescribed.
  • Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. This drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. It is an informational resource designed as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. Drugs.com does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of this information. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Copyright 1996-2018 Drugs.com. Revision Date: 2017-07-26 00:20:10

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