Depression is one of the most common mental health problems in the United States. Major depressive disorder affects more than 16 million U.S. adults every year. One of the most common treatments for depression is a group of drugs that affect serotonin, a chemical messenger in your brain.
Duloxetine is one such medication that has been proven to be an effective depression treatment, but it’s also linked to changes in blood pressure. Learn more about how duloxetine can lead to high and low blood pressure.
What Is Duloxetine?
Duloxetine is a drug that’s sold under the brand name Cymbalta. It’s used to treat depression and long-lasting anxiety. It’s also used to treat fibromyalgia, bone or muscle pain, or diabetic nerve damage.
Duloxetine is in a class of antidepressant medications called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). It works to increase levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain but blocking a process called reuptake. Reuptake is a natural process in which a chemical is removed from your system to be recycled. Increasing the amount of these chemical messengers affects mood, motivation, and energy levels.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved duloxetine in 2004, and a generic version was released in 2013. It can also be used as an alternative to opioids and other pain relievers in treating osteoarthritis pain. It’s said to have fewer and better-tolerated side effects that opioids and NSAID pain relievers. However, duloxetine is not without its adverse effects.
How Duloxetine Affects Blood Pressure
Chemical messengers like dopamine and serotonin have important roles in the central nervous system. If you’re taking duloxetine for its antidepressant qualities, it can alter chemicals in your brain to lift your moods and increase energy levels. However, duloxetine can also affect the unconscious functions of the central nervous system. While it can stimulate your mood, it may also stimulate functions like your blood pressure.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that doctors should monitor blood pressure before and during treatment with duloxetine. They report that some people have experienced orthostatic hypotension, which is a decrease in blood pressure when standing up from a sitting or lying down position. This can cause fainting, lightheadedness, or dizziness.
Hypertension has also been reported. Hypertension is an increase in blood pressure, which can lead to clotting, aneurysm, stroke, and heart failure. A 2007 study looked at the effects of higher-than-average doses of duloxetine in 117 healthy women. They found that it did increase blood pressure and pulse rate.
The study concluded that the drug could cause hypertension in people that are prehypertensive (close to hypertension). For that reason, it’s important to monitor your blood pressure during treatment continually. If you have hypertension or prehypertension, you may want to ask your doctor to explore alternatives before turning to duloxetine.
Other Side Effects
Duloxetine and other drugs that can cause an increase in serotonin levels may lead to a condition called serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome is a group of symptoms that are caused by an excessive buildup of serotonin in the brain. It can cause an increase in body temperature, tremors, sweating, dilated pupils, diarrhea, high blood pressure, seizures, and muscle breakdown. It can be life-threatening without medical treatment.