Lexapro (escitalopram) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor that is prescribed in the treatment of anxiety and depression. This antidepressant has been shown to provide benefits in those suffering from these conditions, and has been prescribed to millions of patients since it was first introduced in 2002.
Lexapro works by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, helping to restore balance to the brain chemicals. When in a state of imbalance, these brain chemicals are believed to be the cause of depression and anxiety. Originally, the drug was only approved for use in adults, but it has since been approved for treating adolescents over the age of 12. While there are benefits associated with using Lexapro, there are also significant dangers associated with its use as well.
Lexapro and the FDA
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warnings for Lexapro and several other antidepressants in 2004, requiring manufacturers to add a black box warning. This warning was required and warned patients and prescribing physicians that use of Lexapro and similar drugs had been linked to an increase in suicidal thoughts and actions in patients under the age of 25. An additional advisory was issued in 2006, citing that the medication could cause birth defects if used during pregnancy.
There are a number of side effects associated with the use of Lexapro, ranging from common issues that resolve on their own to considerably more serious problems that require medical intervention.
Common Side Effects
Common side effects associated with Lexapro are those that are considered mild and resolve on their own after the body adjusts to taking the medication. These include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Decreased appetite
- Vivid dreams
- Tingling in the hands, feet, arms and legs
Other common issues include dry mouth and impotence, which typically do not resolve on their own and continue throughout treatment with the antidepressant.
Serious Side Effects
Lexapro has also been linked to several serious side effects that may require medical intervention or changes in medications. It is recommended that anyone who suffers from these side effects contact their physician or emergency medical services as soon as possible.
An increase in suicidal thoughts and even acting on those thoughts has been reported with Lexapro use. This is especially true in younger patients and those who suffer from other mental health conditions. Additionally, patients who have attempted to commit suicide before, or who suffer from bipolar disorder are at an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Serotonin syndrome is a dangerous condition that occurs when there is too much serotonin in the body. This life-threatening condition often occurs as a result of a patient taking two medications that have an effect on serotonin levels, such as an antidepressant paired with triptan medications or drugs used to treat migraines. Patients suffering from this condition may have restlessness, hallucinations, severe changes in blood pressure, vomiting and fever.
The use of Lexapro by pregnant women has also been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage, low birth weight and birth defects, which include:
- Septal heart defects
- Neural tube defects
- Respiratory distress
- Neurological disorders
- Brain and skull malformations
- Cleft palate or lip
While it is impossible to determine whether these defects were caused directly by Lexapro use due to the ethics of conducting studies on pregnant women, there have been many case studies that show Lexapro may cause these issues.
If you suffered from severe or life-threatening side effects or your child was born with defects after taking Lexapro, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact an attorney today to determine your rights after taking this antidepressant.