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Zoloft Side Effects (Sertraline)

Zoloft i.e. sertraline is a drug that is commonly prescribed in psychiatric clinical practice. In this article, we shall briefly review the different side-effects of Zoloft, concentrating particularly on the sexual side-effects and the side-effects that are seen specifically in men and women.

Side-effects of Zoloft

The side-effects of Zoloft have been greatly studied in different clinical trials. Any side-effects seen with the drug are always of great concern both to the patient and the doctor. This is because when side-effects occur, it is important to take the right steps to prevent them from affecting a patient’s quality of life.

Below are some of the common side-effects that patients taking Zoloft experience.

Common side-effects of Zoloft

Some of the common side-effects that patients experience include a dry mouth, dizziness, nausea, fatigue and increasing sleepiness. Interestingly, some patients may also find it difficult to sleep.

Gastrointestinal side-effects

Zoloft can cause nausea, vomiting and loose motion. Patients also complain of a loss of appetite and pain in the stomach. Due to these problems, some patients tend to eat less food and as a result can notice a great deal of weight loss. They may experience a constant sensation of wanting to vomit and tend to feel extremely weak. Increased bloating in the abdomen and increased gas production are also known side-effects.

Rarely, Zoloft can change the bowel habits of a patient resulting in them becoming either constipated on developing diarrhoea. Indigestion has also been described though not very common. Some patients tend to feel hungry a lot more when taking Zoloft.

Neurological side-effects

Pain is an infrequent side-effect noted with Zoloft use. Patients can become rather nervous and anxious and can develop a severe headache. Excessive sweating may be associated with the symptoms. Difficulty sleeping has already been mentioned above.

In women, hot flushes can be a side-effect though this is not very common. Patients may notice tingling and numbness in the fingers and toes described in the world of medicine as paraesthesia.

Psychological side-effects

Patients who suffer from depression may notice that Zoloft can worsen the symptoms. This is seen in less than 1% of patients but is still recognised and must be kept an eye out for when on treatment. Patients are also described experiencing nightmares and this may require gradual withdrawal of the drug. It is strongly recommended that patients who experience these side-effects do not stop the medication without consulting their health care professional.

Another side-effect that has been linked to psychological and psychiatric health is a reduction in libido. In other words, patients may notice a reduced interest in sexual intercourse. This has been described a little later on in this article.

Another concerning side-effect that is seen with all antidepressant medications including Zoloft is increase the risk of suicide. A ‘black box’ warning regarding this has been issued by the FDA and is currently applicable to all antidepressant medication. Typically, patients may experience increased suicidal thoughts and suicidal ideation and may sometimes demonstrate suicidal behaviour as well. This side-effect must be noted by both the patient and the doctor and must be kept a look for by family members and healthcare professionals when patients are taking Zoloft.

Sexual side-effects of Zoloft

This side-effect of Zoloft is probably the most concerning.

The sexual side-effects in men include a reduced interest in sexual activity with a partner. In addition, patients may notice a delay in ejaculation during sexual activity. This side-effect has been demonstrated in numerous clinical trials where the Zoloft has been used in depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. The available data suggests that this sexual side-effect of Zoloft in men is seen in up to 20% of patients who take the drug. Some patients may notice difficulty in achieving and sustaining an erection. This is known as erectile dysfunction. It must be borne in mind that while these side-effects may be related to Zoloft itself, psychiatric illnesses by themselves can also cause sexual dysfunction.

Sexual side-effects in women are also been described with the use of Zoloft. Primarily, the loss of interest in sex is of concern. Women may experience sexual arousal disorder and may also have a difficulty in achieving orgasm during sex. Similar to erectile dysfunction in men, women who take sertraline may experience insufficient lubrication during arousal.

Rather side-effects include a loss of sensation in the genital area along with it a reduced response to stimulation during sexual activity. While stopping the drug may reverse some of these effects, it can take quite a while before complete recovery is seen.

Contrary to the above side-effects, in some men, priapism i.e. sustained constant erection which is painful can sometimes be seen.

Side-effects in children

In general, the side-effect that been noticed in children tend to be similar to those seen in adults. Fever, agitation, increased activity and urinary incontinence appear to be the common side-effects. Mostly, children tend to tolerate Zoloft fairly well but side-effect profiles being large, these must be looked out for in all age groups. In the event that any side-effect develops, it is essential to seek advice from a registered health care practitioner as soon as possible.

Zoloft is a popular psychiatric medication that is prescribed for depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and number of other psychiatric disorders. It has an excellent user profile and long-term results with the medication are very good. However, side-effect profiles are worrying and must be kept an eye out for both by the patient and the doctor. Sexual side-effects are of particular concern and if they do occur, seeking medical advice from a registered health care practitioner is important.

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