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Lexapro Overview

Lexapro (escitalopram) is an antidepressant drug taken to treat depression, general anxiety disorder (GAD), and major depressive disorder. The medication is in a class of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

These medications affect the brain's ability to receive serotonin, a neurotransmitter. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Lexapro in 2002. Forest Laboratories, Inc. manufactures this popular drug.

This article will provide an overview of Lexapro, including the drug's side effects. We'll also describe some of the health risks this medication poses, including increased suicidality and serotonin syndrome.

What Does Lexapro Treat?

Doctors prescribe Lexapro (escitalopram oxalate) to treat various mental health conditions. Usually, they prescribe it to people with depression or anxiety-related disorders. But it's also helpful for patients with other conditions.

Some of the conditions doctors treat with Lexapro include:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Panic disorder and panic attacks

There is no over-the-counter version of Lexapro. Of course, many people try things like St. John's Wort before resorting to prescription medications.

Young adults should not use Lexapro without the constant supervision of a mental health professional. Keep your medications at room temperature and in a safe place.

Talk to Your Healthcare Professional Before Taking Lexapro

It's important to tell your healthcare provider about all known medical conditions. This is especially true if you have liver or kidney disease or glaucoma.

You must also tell your doctor if you take other medications. This includes vitamins and supplements. You need to ensure that you avoid any adverse drug interactions. Let your doctor know if you have any allergies. An allergic reaction to Lexapro can be dangerous and more than unpleasant.

There are additional risks for pregnant women who take Lexapro. If you're pregnant or plan to become pregnant, tell your physician. They'll discuss any risks or issues you may encounter while taking this drug.

Also, tell your healthcare professional if you breastfeed or plan on breastfeeding your baby. All medications have the potential to contaminate your breast milk. Contaminated milk is dangerous for your baby.

Lexapro Health Risks

The FDA has published specific alerts regarding the health risks of Lexapro. We'll discuss these in more detail below.

There may be other dangers associated with Lexapro use, including:

  • An increased risk of committing suicide or having suicidal thoughts
  • Bleeding problems, especially if taken with aspirin, NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen), or other drugs that affect bleeding
  • Mania (becoming hyperactive, excitable, or elated)
  • Seizures (even if Lexapro is not taken close in time with an MAOI)
  • Increased risks if you're pregnant or may become pregnant. Babies born to mothers taking Lexapro late in pregnancy have developed problems such as difficulty breathing and eating
  • Sexual problems including impotence (erectile dysfunction), abnormal ejaculation, difficulty in reaching orgasm, or decreased libido (sexual desire)

Don't stop taking Lexapro suddenly because doing so may result in harmful side effects. Your healthcare professional should slowly decrease your dose. This is true for all medications doctors prescribe to treat mental health disorders. If you stop taking the drug without your doctor's care, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. The adverse effects of these symptoms can be severe.

Other common side effects of Lexapro use may include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nausea
  • Increased sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight gain
  • Constipation
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Sleepiness

For most people, these side effects will be minor. If you experience serious side effects, tell your doctor immediately.

Medicines and Food That Affect Lexapro

Tell your healthcare professional about all prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements to avoid dangerous interactions with any medication you might be taking.

Don't take Lexapro with Celexa (citalopram), another drug used to treat depression. As these drugs are similar, taking them together increases the risk of an overdose. Don't take Lexapro if you suffer from a risk of bleeding. Finally, if you plan to drink alcohol while taking Lexapro or any other prescription drug, talk to your healthcare professional.

When Not To Take Lexapro

Never take Lexapro with other anti-depression medications such as monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). Don't take this drug if you've stopped taking an MAOI in the last 14 days. Taking these two drugs close in time can result in severe and sometimes fatal reactions. These reactions can include the following:

  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • High body temperature
  • MAOI drugs include:
  • Nardil (phenelzine sulfate)
  • Parnate (tranylcypromine sulfate)
  • Marplan (isocarboxazid)

Your doctor will check for potential adverse drug interactions before prescribing Lexapro.

Lexapro FDA Alert - Serotonin Syndrome

The FDA issued an alert in July 2006 stating that a life-threatening condition called serotonin syndrome can occur when you take SSRIs and medicines used to treat migraine headaches, known as 5-hydroxytryptamine receptor agonists (triptans).

Signs and symptoms of serotonin syndrome include:

  • Restlessness
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of coordination
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Increased body temperature
  • Rapid changes in blood pressure
  • Overactive reflexes
  • Diarrhea
  • Coma
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Serotonin syndrome is more likely to occur when starting or increasing the dose of an SSRI or SNRI. If you take migraine headache medicines, ask your healthcare professional if your medication is a triptan.

Lexapro FDA Alert - Antidepressants and Pregnant Women

The FDA also issued an alert regarding the results of a study on using antidepressant medicines during pregnancy. The study involved mothers of babies born with a severe condition called persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN).

Babies born with PPHN don't get enough oxygen to their brains and have abnormal blood flow through the heart and lungs. These babies can be very sick and may die. Results from the study also show that babies born to mothers who took SSRIs 20 weeks or later into their pregnancies had a higher chance of having PPHN.

New Version of Lexapro

In May 2023, the FDA approved a new version of Lexapro made by AbbVie. This medication is also for patients with general anxiety disorder. This drug is also safe for pediatric patients over the age of seven.

Lexapro and the Increased Risk of Suicidality

In October 2004, the FDA issued a public health advisory directing all antidepressant drug manufacturers to revise their product labeling. According to the FDA, the labeling should include boxed warnings and expanded warnings alerting healthcare providers of an increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children and adolescents taking these medications.

Lexapro-maker Forest Laboratories, Inc. added a black box warning to Lexapro's prescribing information in response to the FDA advisory.

Getting Legal Help

Most medications have specific anticipated side effects. Drug manufacturers must make their products as reasonably safe as possible. They must also inform the medical community and the public of the known risks of their drugs.

If a manufacturer fails to do this, the court can hold it legally responsible for patient injuries. If you or your loved one suffer an injury while taking Lexapro, contact a product liability attorney today.

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