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Side effects of escitalopram

Like all medicines, escitalopram can cause side effects in some people, but many people have no side effects or only minor ones.

Some of the common side effects of escitalopram will gradually improve as your body gets used to it.

Common side effects

Common side effects of escitalopram happen in more than 1 in 100 people. There are things you can do to help cope with them:

Feeling sick (nausea)

Try taking escitalopram with or after food. It may also help if you avoid rich or spicy food.

Headaches

Make sure you rest and drink plenty of fluids. Do not drink too much alcohol. Ask your pharmacist to recommend a painkiller.

Headaches should usually go away after the first week of taking escitalopram. Talk to your doctor if they last longer than a week or are severe.

A dry mouth

Chew sugar-free gum or suck sugar-free sweets.

Sweating a lot

Try wearing loose clothing and using a strong anti-perspirant. If this does not control the problem, talk to your doctor. You may need to try a different antidepressant.

Being unable to sleep

Take escitalopram first thing in the morning.

Feeling sleepy

Take escitalopram in the evening and cut down the amount of alcohol you drink. Do not drive, ride a bike or use tools or machinery if you're feeling sleepy. If this does not help, talk to your doctor.

Feeling tired or weak

Stop what you're doing and sit or lie down until you feel better. Do not drive, ride a bike or use tools or machinery if you're feeling tired. Do not drink alcohol as it will make you feel worse.

Speak to a doctor or pharmacist if the advice on how to cope does not help and any of these side effects bother you or last more than a few days.

Serious side effects

Book an appointment with your doctor if:

  • you lose or gain weight without trying
  • you get changes in your periods, such as heavy bleeding, spotting or bleeding between periods

Call your doctor or contact 111 now if:

  • you have constant headaches, long-lasting confusion or weakness, or frequent muscle cramps – these can all be signs of low sodium levels in your blood
  • you have a high temperature, feel agitated or confused, or you're trembling and twitching – this could be a sign of serotonin syndrome
  • you start coughing up blood or have blood in your pee
  • you have black or red poo or blood in your vomit – these can be signs of bleeding from the gut
  • you are bleeding from the gums, or have bruises that appear without a reason or get bigger

Go to 111.nhs.uk or call 111.

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E now if:

  • you get painful erections that last longer than 2 hours – this may happen even when you're not having sex
  • you have severe dizziness or pass out
  • you get any bleeding that's severe or you cannot stop, such as cuts or nosebleeds that do not stop within 10 minutes
  • you have thoughts about harming yourself or ending your life

Find your nearest A&E

Serious allergic reaction

In rare cases, it's possible to have a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to escitalopram.

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E now if:

  • you get a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
  • you're wheezing
  • you get tightness in the chest or throat
  • you have trouble breathing or talking
  • your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling

You could be having a serious allergic reaction and may need immediate treatment in hospital.

Sexual side effects

The good effects of escitalopram may, after a while, improve your sex life as your mood lifts and you become interested in life and relationships again.

Some of the possible sexual side effects include:

  • painful erections and problems getting an erection and ejaculating
  • vaginal bleeding and not reaching orgasm the same way as before
  • a lower sex drive

Sexual side effects usually pass after the first couple of weeks. However, very rarely, they can be long lasting and may not get better even after stopping the medicine.

If these happen and are a problem for you, go back to your doctor to see if there's another treatment you can try.

Other side effects

These are not all the side effects of escitalopram. For a full list, see the leaflet inside your medicine packet.

Information:

You can report any suspected side effect using the Yellow Card safety scheme.

Visit Yellow Card for further information.

Page last reviewed: 24 February 2022
Next review due: 24 February 2025