Lexapro (Escitalopram) Dosage and Side Effects
Doctors prescribe LEXAPRO to treat depression and generalized anxiety disorder. It works by increasing levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps maintain mental balance.
LEXAPRO can help alleviate symptoms of depression, such as loss of interest in activities, fatigue, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, and lack of concentration. It can also ease such symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder as restlessness, difficulty concentrating, and irritability.
Warnings and Precautions
Like many antidepressants, LEXAPRO carries a black-box warning because of an increased risk of suicide.
Adolescents, teens, and adults younger than 24 who take LEXAPRO for major depressive disorder and other mental illnesses may be at greater risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Young people who take this drug need close monitoring.
Even if you are older than 24, your mental health may change in unexpected ways while you are taking LEXAPRO.
You may have thoughts of suicide, particularly when you first start taking the medication or when your dose is changed.
It's important to contact your doctor right away if you, your friends, or family members notice that you have new or sudden changes in mood, thoughts, feelings, or actions.
Research published in 2014 revealed there could be a link between prenatal exposure to SSRIs and autism spectrum disorders or developmental delays.
The study found the risk for these conditions may be higher for newborns whose mothers took an SSRI early in their pregnancy.
The researchers cautioned, however, that results from other studies of SSRIs have been inconsistent and larger studies are necessary.
Before you start on LEXAPRO, let your doctor know if you've recently had a heart attack or if you have heart disease.
Your doctor should also know if you have:
- Liver disease
- Kidney problems
- A thyroid condition
Tell your doctor if you have any type of surgery planned, including a dental procedure.
LEXAPRO and Weight Gain
Like many other antidepressants, use of LEXAPRO has been associated with weight gain.
Weight gain caused by LEXAPRO may be due to fluid retention, lack of exercise, increased appetite, or other factors.
Experts recommend physical activity and eating fewer high-calorie foods to manage weight gain while taking LEXAPRO or other antidepressants.
LEXAPRO and Pregnancy
LEXAPRO may cause harm to a developing fetus.
If you're a woman, tell your doctor if you are pregnant, may become pregnant, or are breastfeeding.
LEXAPRO may pass into breast milk, so the drug should only be used by breastfeeding women if the risks outweight the benefits.
LEXAPRO can also cause health problems for babies shortly after birth, particularly when women take the drug during the last few months of their pregnancy.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women should take LEXAPRO only if the drug's potential benefits outweigh its risks.
LEXAPRO is safe for adults and for adolescents/teens 12 to 17 years old.
Children younger than 12 should not take LEXAPRO.
Common side effects of LEXAPRO include:
- Changes in sex drive or function
- Unusual sweating
- Stomach pain
- Extreme tiredness
- Dry mouth
- Greater appetite
- Flu-like symptoms, including sneezing and runny nose
Serious side effects can also occur. If you have any of these side effects, call your doctor immediately:
- Unusual excitement
- Hallucinations, which means seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Severe muscle stiffness
- Thoughts about suicide or dying
- New or worse depression or anxiety
- Extreme agitation or restlessness
- Panic attacks
- Trouble sleeping
- Unusual irritability
- Anger or aggressive behavior
- Mania, or an extreme increase in activity and talking
- Other unusual changes in behavior or mood
Interactions with this medication
Many drugs may affect the way LEXAPRO works. The drug could also affect other medications.
It's very important to let your doctor know about everything you are taking, including illegal drugs and any over-the-counter (OTC) medications, herbs, or supplements.
Examples of drugs that interact with LEXAPRO include:
- St. John's wort
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), such as isocarboxazid (Marplan), phenelzine (Nardil), or selegiline (Eldepryl, Emsam, Zelapar)
- Certain pain medications, such as tramadol (Ryzolt, Ultram, ConZip)
- Other SSRIs, such as citalopram (Celexa)
- Blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin)
- Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn)
- Heartburn drugs, such as cimetidine (Tagamet)
- Drugs used to treat mental illness, such as lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid, Lithotabs)
- Anti-seizure medications, like carbamazepine (Tegretol)
- Some heart drugs, including digoxin (Digox, Lanoxin)
- Migraine medications, such as almotriptan (Axert), eletriptan (Relpax), and frovatriptan (Frova)
- Other antidepressants, such as desipramine (Norpramin)
- Sedatives and sleeping pills, including triazolam (Halcion)
- The HIV drug ritonavir (Norvir)
- Certain antifungal medications, such as ketoconazole (Nizoral, Xolegel, Extina)
- The antibiotic linezolid (Zyvox)
LEXAPRO and Alcohol
Drinking alcohol will worsen the negative effects of LEXAPRO on your mental and motor skills.
Don't drink alcohol if you're taking this medication.
LEXAPRO can also make you feel tired and can affect your judgment, thinking, and motor skills.
You should not drive or operate machinery until you know how you respond to the drug.
Proper Use of this medication
LEXAPRO is available as 5-, 10-, or 20-milligram (mg) coated tablets. It also comes in liquid form.
Generally, the effective dose of LEXAPRO ranges from 10 to 20 mg daily.
For depression and generalized anxiety disorder, most people start by taking 10 mg a day.
If needed, your doctor can increase the dose to 20 mg after at least one week.
People usually take LEXAPRO once a day, either in the morning or at night, with or without food.
It may take four weeks or more before you experience the full benefits of LEXAPRO.
You should keep taking the drug even if you feel good. Don't stop taking LEXAPRO without talking with your doctor first.
If you take too much LEXAPRO you may develop a number of serious and negative side effects.
Symptoms of overdose may include:
- Low blood pressure
- Fast or pounding heartbeat
- Fast breathing
If you or someone else has symptoms of an overdose, call a poison control center.
If someone collapses or isn't breathing, call 911 immediately.
Missed Dose of LEXAPRO
If you suddenly stop taking LEXAPRO, you may develop symptoms of withdrawal, including:
- Mood swings
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Trouble sleeping
If you accidentally miss a dose of LEXAPRO, take the missed dose as soon as you remember it.
If it's almost time for your next regular dose, however, skip the missed dose.
Do not take twice as much LEXAPRO at one time to make up for a missed dose.
Other related products
The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.