Does Taking Lexapro Cause Weight Gain?

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Patients who are suffering from major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder have a wide variety of prescription medications available as treatment options, but many are associated with unpleasant side effects like weight gain and sexual dysfunction. 

Lexapro is one of the most popular antidepressants on the market, but does taking Lexapro cause weight gain?

What is Lexapro?

Lexapro is a brand-name prescription medication that is also available in a generic form, escitalopram.

The drug belongs to a class of medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which are commonly prescribed as antidepressant medications. 

Lexapro is one of the most popular antidepressants on the market and is among the top 20 prescription drugs prescribed in the United States.

Lexapro is well-tolerated by most patients and has a comparatively short list of side effects when considered along with other antidepressants. 

What is Lexapro used to treat?

Lexapro is approved by the FDA for the treatment of major depressive disorder, also known as clinical depression, in adults and in adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17.

The medication is also approved for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in adults. Lexapro is only the second prescription drug approved for the treatment of major depressive disorder in adolescents.

Does taking Lexapro cause weight gain?

Antidepressant use is known to cause weight gain, and this isn’t just a matter of public perception. Like other antidepressants, Lexapro is known to cause weight gain

A study of numerous antidepressants, including Lexapro, found that over 55 percent of patients using these drugs gained body weight over the course of treatment that lasted between 6 and 36 months.

The weight gain was considered clinically significant, as more than 40 percent of the study participants gained at least 7 percent or more weight compared to their starting weight.

Of the medications studied, only Prozac was not associated with significant weight gain. 

Other studies have reached similar conclusions, with the majority of SSRIs and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) reporting weight gain as a common potential side effect.

These SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram (Celexa), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft). Examples of SNRIs include duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor). SSRIs and SNRIs boost serotonin, which helps control weight. 

The use of antidepressants can cause a slight increase in appetite that adds extra pounds over time, and it can increase cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods.

However, rather than causing overeating or obesity, this increase in cravings is often reversing changes in appetite caused by certain mental health conditions.

What side effects are associated with Lexapro?

Compared to other drugs in its class, the side effects associated with Lexapro are less numerous and are more likely to be mild in nature.

The side effects of Lexapro vary depending on whether the medication is taken by a child or an adult. 

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Common side effects of Lexapro use in adults include:

  • Weight gain

  • Anxiety

  • Sleepiness

  • Dizziness

  • Unusual changes in sex drive and other sexual issues like erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation 

  • Loss of appetite

  • Constipation

  • Shaking

  • Dry mouth

  • Nausea

  • Weakness

  • Infection

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Sweating

  • Yawning

Children and adolescents may experience the same side effects as adults, but they may also experience the following side effects that adults do not experience:

  • Nosebleeds

  • Increased thirst

  • Trouble urinating

  • Heavy menstrual periods

  • Abnormal increase in muscle movement or agitation

  • Slowed growth and weight change or weight loss

Rare but serious side effects associated with Lexapro include:

  • Severe allergic reactions, which can cause symptoms such as:

    • Swelling of the face, tongue, eyes, or mouth

    • Trouble breathing

    • Severe rash, hives, or blisters that may be accompanied by fever or joint pain

  • Seizures or convulsions

  • High blood pressure

  • Low salt levels, which can cause symptoms such as:

    • Confusion

    • Weakness

    • Seizures

    • Headache

    • Trouble concentrating

    • Irregular heartbeat

    • Thinking or memory problems

    • Unsteadiness that can lead to falls

  • Serotonin syndrome, which can cause symptoms such as:

    • Confusion

    • Fever

    • Diarrhea

    • Severe muscular tightness

    • Shivering

    • Seizures

    • Death

  • Manic episodes, which can cause symptoms such as:

    • Unusually grand ideas

    • Severe trouble sleeping

    • Reckless behavior

    • Talking quickly or more than normal

    • Excessive happiness or irritability

  • Vision problems, which can cause symptoms such as:

    • Eye pain

    • Swelling or redness in or around your eye

    • Changes in your vision

If you experience any of these side effects, please seek medical attention immediately. 

Summary

Like most other antidepressants, weight gain is a common side effect of Lexapro. However, Lexapro generally is associated with fewer side effects than other antidepressants, and the side effects are likely to have a more mild presentation. 

Lexapro is one of the most popular antidepressants on the market because it is generally well tolerated. Weight gain from Lexapro can be mediated through weight management wellness practices such as regular physical activity and nutritional supplements. 

Speak to your healthcare provider or seek medical advice to see if Lexapro is right for you. 

Patients can save on either generic or brand name Lexapro with a pharmacy discount card from Pharmacists.org.

Sources: 

https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/lexapro-side-effects 

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25467076/ 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4850471/

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