Try to take escitalopram at the same time each day.
It may take up to four weeks after starting this treatment before you feel the full benefit. Do not stop taking it, feeling it is not helping.
Tell your doctor if you feel that you are getting worse, or if you experience any troublesome side-effects.
|Type of medicine||Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant|
|Used for||Depression, and anxiety disorders (such as panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder) in adults|
|Available as||Tablets, and oral liquid drops|
Brain cells, called neurons, release a number of chemicals which go on to stimulate other neurons. This leads to electrical impulses which result in many functions controlled by the brain. Serotonin is one such chemical in the brain. Once released, it stimulates other neurons and is then taken back up into the neuron cells and recycled. SSRI antidepressants like escitalopram increase the amount of circulating serotonin available in your brain. This may help the symptoms of depression or anxiety in some people.
Escitalopram is available on prescription.
Before taking escitalopram
Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking escitalopram it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
- If you have heart, liver or kidney problems.
- If you have epilepsy.
- If you have diabetes.
- If you have glaucoma (increased pressure in your eye).
- If you have ever had a bleeding disorder.
- If you have ever had abnormally 'high' moods, called mania.
- If you are being treated with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
- If you have taken an antidepressant known as a monoamine-oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) within the previous two weeks.
- If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
How to take escitalopram
- Before you start this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside your pack. The leaflet will give you more information about escitalopram and a full list of side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
- Take escitalopram exactly as your doctor has told you to. It is prescribed as a once-daily dose. You can generally take it at a time to suit you, but try to take your doses at the same time of day, each day. There are several strengths of tablet available, so your doctor will tell you which strength is right for you. This information will also be on the label of the pack you have been supplied with.
- If you have been given Cipralex® oral drops, your doctor will tell you how many drops to take each day. Count the correct number of drops into a drink of water, orange juice or apple juice. Stir it briefly, and then drink it straightaway.
- You can take escitalopram tablets or oral drops before or after food.
- If you do forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If you do not remember until the following day, skip the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
Getting the most from your treatment
- You may feel that escitalopram is not working for you straightaway. It can take a week or two after starting this treatment before the effect begins to build up, and 4-6 weeks before you feel the full benefit. Do not stop taking it after a week or two, feeling it is not helping.
- Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress.
- If you drink alcohol, ask your doctor for advice. Your doctor is likely to recommend that you do not drink alcohol while you are on escitalopram, as it increases the risk of side-effects, such as feeling sleepy.
- If you have diabetes, you may need to check your blood glucose more frequently, as escitalopram may affect the levels of sugar in your blood. Your doctor will be able to advise you about this.
- If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with escitalopram. This is because several medicines which are available from general retail outlets can interfere with this treatment. In particular, do not take the herbal remedy St John's wort, and ask for advice before buying any anti-inflammatory painkillers.
- There are several types of antidepressants and they differ in their possible side-effects. If you find that escitalopram does not suit you then let your doctor know, as another may be found that will.
- While you are taking escitalopram, you may have thoughts about harming yourself or ending your life. These thoughts may also be associated with your condition. It is very important that you tell your doctor about this if it happens.
- You should expect that a course of treatment will last for several months after your symptoms have eased. This is normal and helps to prevent your symptoms from recurring.
- Do not stop taking escitalopram unless your doctor tells you to do so. Stopping treatment suddenly can cause problems and your doctor will probably want you to reduce your dose gradually if this is necessary.
Can escitalopram cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, all medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.
|Common escitalopram side-effects||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Feeling or being sick, diarrhoea||Stick to simple meals - avoid rich or spicy food. Drink plenty of liquid to replace any lost fluids|
|Feeling dizzy, tired or sleepy||If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines|
|Constipation||Try to eat a well-balanced diet containing plenty of fibre, and drink several glasses of water each day|
|Dry mouth||Try chewing sugar-free gum, or sucking sugar-free sweets|
|Feeling restless, shaky, or anxious||This usually settles within a few days. If it becomes troublesome or severe, speak with your doctor|
|Changes in appetite and weight, unusual dreams, tingling feelings, yawning, sweating, aches and pains, sinusitis, sexual problems, and sleeping problems||If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor|
Important: a few people taking escitalopram have developed an allergic-type reaction. Although this is rare, you should contact your doctor straightaway if you develop any swelling around your face, any difficulties breathing, or a severe rash.
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.
How to store escitalopram
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
- You can use escitalopram drops for eight weeks after first opening the bottle. After this time, make sure you have a fresh supply to use.
Important information about all medicines
Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
If you are having an operation or any dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.
Never keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.
Further reading & references
- Manufacturer's PIL, Cipralex® 5, 10, 15 and 20 mg Film-coated Tablets; Lundbeck Limited, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated September 2012.
- Manufacturer's PIL, Cipralex® oral drops solution, 20 mg/ml; Lundbeck Limited, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated September 2012.
- British National Formulary; 65th Edition (Mar 2013) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.
Dr Adrian Bonsall