Lexapro: Uses, Dosage, Side Effects, and More
Lexapro is a brand-name medication that contains the active ingredient escitalopram. Escitalopram belongs to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are commonly used to treat depression and anxiety disorders.
What is Serotonin, and how do SSRIs work?
Serotonin is a chemical messenger that helps regulate mood, emotions, sleep, appetite, and other functions in the brain. Researchers believe apart from genetics, lifestyle choices, and stress, lower serotonin levels lead to increased anxiety and depression.
SSRIs work by preventing serotonin reabsorption (reuptake) by specific nerve cells in the brain, increasing its availability and enhancing its effects, and should only be taken after a doctor’s diagnosis and prescription.
Lexapro is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating major depressive disorder (MDD) in adults and adolescents aged 12 years and older and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in adults.
It may also be prescribed off-label for other conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), etc.
Lexapro comes in two forms: tablets and oral solutions. The tablets are available in four strengths: 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, and 20 mg. The oral solution contains 1 mg of escitalopram per milliliter of liquid.
The dosage of Lexapro depends on several factors, such as the condition being treated, the severity of symptoms, the patient’s age, weight, medical history, response to treatment, etc.
The usual starting dose for adults with MDD or GAD is 10 mg once daily. This dose may be increased to a maximum of 20 mg once daily after at least one week. The usual starting dose for adolescents with MDD is 10 mg once daily. This dose may be decreased to 5 mg once daily or increased to a maximum of 20 mg once daily after at least three weeks.
Lexapro should be taken at the same time each day, with or without food. It may take several weeks before the full benefits of Lexapro are felt.
Like any medication, Lexapro may cause side effects in some people. Some of the most common side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, dry mouth, headache, drowsiness, insomnia, dizziness, sweating, tremor, restlessness, irritability, anxiety, nervousness, fatigue, sexual dysfunction, weight changes, etc.
Most of these side effects are mild and tend to subside over time as the body adjusts to Lexapro. However, there may be other severe effects that will need immediate medical care. These include allergic reactions, seizures, low sodium levels, bleeding problems, serotonin syndrome, hyponatremia, mania or hypomania, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, etc.
If a patient takes Lexapro and experiences any side effects that are unusual or bothersome while on the medication, they should inform their physician.
Lexapro may also interact with other medications, supplements, foods, or beverages that affect serotonin levels or metabolism. These include other antidepressants, antipsychotics, migraine medications, painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, blood thinners, herbal products such as St. John’s wort or ginkgo biloba grapefruit juice alcohol, etc.
These interactions may increase the risk of adverse effects such as serotonin syndrome, bleeding problems, liver damage, etc. Patients should tell their doctor about all the substances they are using before starting Lexapro. They should also avoid making any changes to their medication regimen without consulting their doctor.
Lexapro is a safe and effective medication for treating depression and anxiety disorders when used as directed by a doctor. However, it is not suitable for everyone and may cause unwanted effects on some people. Therefore, patients should follow their doctor’s instructions carefully and report any concerns or questions they have about Lexapro.