What is Escitalopram?
Escitalopram is an antidepressant. It is primarily used to treat depression. Depression is a medical issue whereby a person may feel upset or unhappy for extended periods of time, often weeks or even months.
Additionally, Escitalopram is used to treat other conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder and panic attacks.
Escitalopram is available on prescription from a GP. We are also able to prescribe it to you online after an assessment with one of our prescribers. Escitalopram comes as tablets, or as drops you put into water to drink. Escitalopram is also available under the brand names Cipralex and Lexapro. The active ingredient is called escitalopram oxalate.
For further information, please read the patient information leaflet for Escitalopram.
How it works
Escitalopram is one of a group of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. SSRIs like Escitalopram work by increasing levels of a neurotransmitter called serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is believed to improve mood and social behavior, and so it’s thought that this is how Escitalopram can help patients suffering with major depressive disorder.
SSRIs take time to begin affecting your mood, and you won’t notice an increase in mood straight away. Escitalopram can take between 4 and 6 weeks to begin working.
Before you take it
If you have recently suffered a heart attack, or have experienced heart problems in the past, you should first discuss with your doctor before you take this medication. This is because Escitalopram can alter your heart rate. You must also exercise caution if you know you have a low resting heart rate.
You should discuss with your doctor if you bruise or bleed easily before you start taking Escitalopram.
If you are epileptic, Escitalopram may increase the number of seizures you have.
If you have a kidney or liver problem, your dosage may need to be adjusted to suit your condition. Ensure you contact your doctor before taking Escitalopram if this applies to you.
Escitalopram may increase the pressure in your eyes. If you have an eye condition called glaucoma, you should ask your doctor before taking Escitalopram.
It is important to continue taking Escitalopram until you are told not to, as it may cause withdrawal symptoms. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.
If you have diabetes, treatment with Escitalopram can affect your blood sugar, making it more difficult to keep your blood sugar levels stable. You must contact your doctor before taking Escitalopram if you are diabetic, and should also ensure that you regularly monitor your blood sugar levels while taking Escitalopram.
Do not take Escitalopram if you are allergic to Escitalopram or any of the other active ingredients.
Escitalopram is known to cause issues in unborn children if taken within the last trimester of pregnancy. If you are pregnant, you must inform your doctor before taking Escitalopram. Do not take Escitalopram during pregnancy unless specifically advised to by your doctor.
Escitalopram may interact with other medications. It is very important that you consult your doctor or health professional if you are taking any of the following medications before you take Escitalopram:
- Any medications that cause blood thinning, such as warfarin or aspirin
- Any other SSRI antidepressants, such as citalopram or paroxetine – taking different antidepressants together can increase your risk of serotonin syndrome
- Older, rarely used antidepressants called Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors
- St John’s Wort, a herbal remedy used for depression
- Tramadol, used to treat severe depression
- Any medicine that decreases blood levels of potassium or magnesium, as this can increase your risk of heart rhythm disorders
This is not an exhaustive list of drugs that may cause drug interactions with Escitalopram, and for a full list you should read the patient information leaflet, or consult your doctor.
You should take Escitalopram as prescribed by your doctor or pharmacist. You should not exceed the dose prescribed to you. Consult the relevant health care professional if you are in any way unsure which dose to take.
Escitalopram should not be taken by anyone under the age of 18 to treat any condition. We do not prescribe medicines to under 18s.
Escitalopram should be taken once per day. It does not matter what time you take Escitalopram, as long as you take it at the same time every day. If you have trouble sleeping, it’s usually best to take Escitalopram in the morning.
Your dose will change based on your condition, however the usual starting dose for adults is 10mg daily. You can take Escitalopram with or without food.
Swallow your Escitalopram 10 mg tablet with plenty of water. Swallow them whole – do not crush, suck or chew them.
Your doctor may increase your dose if your symptoms do not improve. Always follow your doctor’s instructions.
Your doctor can advise you as to how long you will need to take Escitalopram. You should not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.
Common Side Effects of Escitalopram
It’s possible for Escitalopram to cause a severe allergic reaction in some people. This is comparatively rare, but an allergic reaction of any kind is an emergency. If you believe you are experiencing an allergic reaction, you must immediately seek medical advice. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include:
- Skin rash, including redness, itching, peeling or blistering
- Tightness in the chest or throat
- Trouble breathing
- Swelling of the facial area, including the lips, tongue, throat and mouth
Escitalopram carries a risk of side effects of a serious nature. If you experience this, you should seek medical advice. Call your doctor right away if you notice any of the following serious side effects:
- Headaches, trouble concentrating or memory issues – these can be signs of low sodium levels
- Dizziness or loss of consciousness
- Changes in menstrual periods
- Painful erections lasting more than 4 hours, even when you’re not having sex
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
- Vomiting blood
- Any blood that is abnormally bad or that you can’t stop
Escitalopram can also cause less serious possible side effects. These are usually mild to moderate, and go away on their own as your body becomes used to the medicine. However, if they continue to get worse, you may consider informing your doctor if you notice:
- Dry mouth
- Excessive sweating
- Feeling unusually fatigued or weak
Escitalopram may cause side effects not listed here. For a full list of related side effects, consult the patient information leaflet or consult your doctor.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is Escitalopram suitable for children?
No. Escitalopram is not recommended for anyone aged under 18. Additionally, we do not prescribe any medications to under 18s.
I’m pregnant. Can I take Escitalopram?
You must discuss with your doctor before you take Escitalopram if you are pregnant. Escitalopram may cause harm to your unborn baby and your doctor will decide if the benefits of taking Escitalopram during pregnancy outweigh the risks to your baby. You must immediately tell your doctor if you become pregnant while taking Escitalopram.
Will Escitalopram affect my contraception?
Escitalopram will not affect hormonal contraception in women.
What happens if I miss a dose?
If you miss your usual dose of Escitalopram, take it as soon as you remember if it is before bedtime. However, if you remember after you have gone to bed or during the night, do not take the missed dose and continue as normal with your next dose. Never take more than one dose at a time, and do not double up to make up for a missed dose.
What happens if I take too much?
Taking too much Escitalopram is associated with more severe side effects. You may also experience serotonin syndrome, which may cause nausea, vomiting, shivering, restlessness or hallucinations. If you believe you have taken too much Escitalopram, go to your local hospital or A&E department for advice.