When a patient suffers from a depressive disorder, the symptoms can interfere with her life. Such symptoms might include sadness, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, fatigue and inappropriate guilt. The Mayo Clinic states that doctors commonly prescribe antidepressants, such as Cymbalta and Lexapro, for patients with moderate to severe depression.
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Cymbalta and Lexapro are both selective reuptake inhibitors. This type of antidepressant improves mood by preventing the reuptake, or recycling, of certain neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that transmit signals in the nervous system. By preventing the recycling of the neurotransmitters, these drugs make more of the chemicals available for the brain to use, thus improving the patient's mood.
Lexapro targets the mood neurotransmitter serotonin. Cymbalta is a dual reuptake inhibitor, preventing the recycling of norepinephrine as well as serotonin.
A doctor may prescribe Cymbalta or Lexapro for conditions other than depression. The Anxiety Disorders Association of America states that these antidepressants also treat panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder. Drugs.com adds that Cymbalta also treats fibromyalgia, a musculoskeletal condition, and nerve pain.
Both Lexapro and Cymbalta have side effects, which may cause the patient some discomfort. Drugs.com states that side effects for both Lexapro and Cymbalta include decreased sex drive, impotence, drowsiness, dry mouth, nausea and weight changes. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services notes that patients taking Cymbalta experienced irritability, nausea, yawning, dry mouth and vomiting more often than patients taking Lexapro. Drugs.com adds that other side effects of Cymbalta include insomnia, joint pain and blurred vision.
Before starting Lexapro or Cymbalta, a patient must stop taking any monoamine oxidase inhibitors, another type of antidepressant, for at least 14 days, according to Drugs.com. The site also warns that patients who have a history of drug abuse or suicidal thoughts, liver or kidney disease, bipolar disorder or seizures, cannot take Lexapro or Cymbalta. A doctor may have to adjust the Cymbalta dosage for a patient with glaucoma or blood clotting disorder.
While Cymbalta and Lexapro treat the symptoms of depression, they may cause suicidal thoughts in some users. In October 2004, the FDA added a warning that antidepressants may cause an increase in suicidal thoughts or behaviors in children or adolescents; in May 2007, the FDA extended that warning to include users up to the age of 24.