Description: Escitalopram (brand name Lexapro) is a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) used to treat major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Doctors may also prescribe Lexapro to treat stress panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and hot flashes in menopausal and post-menopausal women.
As an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor – a newer class of antidepressants that increases the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain), Lexapro is generally regarded as safe with minimal side effects; however, it is important for patients taking or starting the drug to be aware of Lexapro side effects, some of which can be serious and even life-threatening.
Life-Threatening Lexapro Adverse Reactions
While uncommon, serious and fatal adverse reactions to Lexapro have been reported in patients by the FDA, including abnormal heart rhythms, according to the FDA Drug Safety Communication: Revised Recommendations for Celexa (citalopram hydrobromide) which tetails the potential risk of abnormal heart rhythms with high doses.
Other serious reactions include:
Serotonin Syndrome: A Serious Lexapro Side Effect
SSRIs like escitalopram work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the space between brain cells. In some cases, excess levels of serotonin can lead to a dangerous condition called “serotonin syndrome.” Serotonin syndrome may cause a rapid heart rate, movement problems, altered mental status, and increased body temperature.
Common Lexapro Side Effects
According ot the Lexapro drug label reported by the FDA (Jan 2009), the most common Lexapro adverse effect is nausea. According to one study, 15% of people taking escitalopram for depression experienced nausea. In another study, which examined escitalopram adverse effects in people with generalized anxiety disorder, an equal percentage of individuals taking escitalopram experienced excessive sleepiness or insomnia. In fact, fatigue was reported by 8% of people taking Lexapro for generalized anxiety disorder, compared to only 2% of those taking a placebo.
Another common, and often the most troubling, of the Lexapro side effects are those that affect sexual health and sexual function. In medical terms, these side effects include ejaculation disorder, impotence, and anorgasmia. Stated another way, between 2% and 9% of men who take escitalopram (Lexapro) will experience a delay in the time it takes to orgasm, the inability to get or maintain an erection, and/or the inability to have an orgasm. For many men, these Lexapro side effects are troubling enough to cause them to stop taking the medication.
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Contributors to this Article:
Michael Sapko, MD, PhD; Deborah Kallick, PhD, Medicinal Chemistry
Read more about Rxight® genetic testing for drug metabolism