|Type of medicine||Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant|
|Available as||Capsules and oral liquid|
Anyone can develop depression. It can develop for no apparent reason or it may be triggered by a life event such as a relationship problem, bereavement, or illness.
Brain cells called neurons, release a number of chemicals which go on to stimulate other neurons leading to electrical impulses which result in many functions controlled by the brain. Serotonin is one such chemical in the brain. Once released, it stimulates other neurons and is then taken back up into the neuron cells and recycled. Antidepressants like fluoxetine increase the amount of circulating serotonin available in the brain. This may help depression symptoms in some people.
Although fluoxetine is often used to treat depression, it can also reduce the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and help in the treatment of bulimia nervosa.
Before taking fluoxetine
Before taking fluoxetine make sure your doctor or pharmacist knows:
- If you are under 18 years of age.
- If you are pregnant, trying for a baby or breast-feeding.
- If you have heart or liver problems.
- If you have epilepsy.
- If you have diabetes.
- If you have glaucoma (increased pressure in your eye).
- If you have a bleeding disorder.
- If you have ever had abnormally 'high' moods.
- If you are being treated with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
- If you have ever had an allergic reaction to this or to any other medicine.
- If you have taken an antidepressant known as a monoamine-oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) within the previous two weeks.
- If you are taking any other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines.
How to take fluoxetine
- Before starting this treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack.
- Take fluoxetine exactly as your doctor has told you.
- Try to take fluoxetine at the same times each day to avoid missing any of your doses.
- It is not important whether you take fluoxetine before, during or after food.
- If you do forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it is nearly time for your next dose, in which case leave out the missed dose. Do not take two doses together to make up for a forgotten dose.
Getting the most from your treatment
- You may feel that fluoxetine is not working for you straightaway. It can take a week or two after starting this treatment before the effect builds up and 4-6 weeks before you feel the full benefit. Do not stop taking it after a week or so, thinking it is not helping.
- Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress.
- You are advised not to drink alcohol while you are being treated with fluoxetine. Taking fluoxetine and alcohol may increase the chance that you experience side-effects.
- If you have diabetes you may need to check your blood glucose more frequently, as fluoxetine may affect the levels of sugar in your blood. Your doctor will be able to advise you about this.
- Fluoxetine may cause your skin to become more sensitive to sunlight than usual. Avoid strong sunlight and sunbeds until you know how your skin reacts.
- If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to take with fluoxetine.
- There are several types of antidepressants and they differ in their possible side-effects. If you find that fluoxetine does not suit you then let your doctor know, as another may be found that will.
- Do not stop taking fluoxetine unless your doctor tells you to do so. Stopping treatment suddenly can cause problems and your doctor will probably want you to reduce your dose gradually if this is necessary.
- While you feel depressed or are taking fluoxetine, you may have thoughts about harming yourself or ending your life. It is very important that you tell your doctor about this if it happens.
- If you are taking fluoxetine for depression, you should expect that a normal course of treatment will last for around six months after your symptoms have eased.
Can fluoxetine cause problems?
Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.
|Common fluoxetine side-effects||What can I do if I experience this?|
|Feeling or being sick, indigestion, abdominal pain, diarrhoea||Stick to simple foods and drink plenty of water|
|Constipation||Try to eat a well-balanced diet containing plenty of fibre and drink 6-8 glasses of water each day|
|Dry mouth||Try chewing sugar-free gum or sweets|
|Headache||Ask your pharmacist to recommend a suitable painkiller. If the headache continues, speak with your doctor|
|Sleepiness, dizziness, weakness||If this happens, do not drive or use tools or machines. If the dizziness happens when you stand up, try getting up more slowly and wait for a few moments so that you do not feel faint. Let your doctor know if this continues|
|Increased sweating, difficulty sleeping, restlessness, hair loss, anxiety, lack of appetite, loss of weight, muscle and joint pains, passing urine more frequently or difficulties passing urine, feeling shaky, sexual difficulties, breast changes, yawning, sore throat, changes in taste, poor concentration||If any of these become troublesome, speak with your doctor|
Important: if you develop any of the following, contact your doctor straightaway or go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital:
- Any swelling of the mouth or face.
- Any shortness of breath or difficulty swallowing.
- An itchy rash.
If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to this medicine, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
How to store fluoxetine
- Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
- Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
Important information about all medicines
Further reading & references
- British National Formulary; 62nd Edition (Sep 2011) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
- Manufacturer's PIL, Fluoxetine Capsules 20 mg; Manufacturer's PIL, Fluoxetine Capsules 20 mg, Actavis UK Ltd, electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated September 2010.
- Manufacturer's PIL, Prozac® 20 mg per 5 ml Oral Liquid; Manufacturer's PIL, Prozac® 20 mg per 5 ml Oral Liquid, Eli Lilly and Company Limited, electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated September 2011.
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.
Dr Helen Huins