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On medicine for anxiety and panic disorder. Any risk for heart related problem?

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Practicing since : 2004
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I am a 38 year old male who has dealt with an anxiety disorder all my life. I've been on 20mg of Cipralex for about 3 years now and it has helped control panic attacks. I was on Paxil for 8 years before this and weaned off them thinking I was better. When the panic attacks and anxiety returned, affecting my quality of life, I went back to the Doctor and was prescribed Cipralex. The Doctor indicated that most people only stay on 10mg of this drug for a short while. My opinion though is that with my past experience quiting Paxil and having the panic attacks return, it doesn't make sense to me to ever come off it. However, I have been reading about health related heart problems and this has me concerned. Do I risk future heart problems, or go back to living with daily panic attacks and anxiety? This is an expensive drug, but I was told it was one of the better drugs for anxiety. Once in a blue moon I have felt the odd heart tingle, but it doesn't last long enough to hardly think about. Only side affects I've experienced the last little while are dry mouth in the morning. Also noticed carbonated drinks don't seem to agree with me too well. What are you telling your patients to do with this drug? Looking for a second professional opinion.
Posted Fri, 15 Mar 2013 in Anxiety and Stress
Answered by Dr. Ashish Mittal 1 hour later
Thanks for your query.
I appreciate your efforts for medical consultation in so much distress.

From your history it is apparent that you have anxiety and panic disorder. Anxiety and panic disorder occur due to neurotransmitters imbalance in brain most commonly involving serotonin neurotransmitter. These disorders are chronic (long term) illness like Hypertension and Diabetes. Treatment control symptoms of illness and in most of the cases symptoms reemerge after stoppage of treatment. So, these medicines need to be continued for years like you have received.

Paxil contain paroxetine and cipralex contain escitalopram. Both medicines belong to same class of medicines, that is SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). Both are very good medicines for anxiety and panic.

Although there is long list of side effects (like each medicine) but clinically these medicine are very safe. There is no causal relationship between cardiac illness and these medicines.

Anxiety itself can cause palpitation and twitching in chest due to muscle spasm. So, there is no need for worry. If you have doubt, you can have electrocardiogram to rule out any cardiac problem.

I hope this information has been both informative and helpful for you. In case of any doubt, I will be available for follow ups.

Wish you good health.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: On medicine for anxiety and panic disorder. Any risk for heart related problem? 21 minutes later
Thank you for your advise and reassurance in relation to cardiac illness. The last time I saw my Doctor (December) he suggested I consider reducing Cipralex from 20mg a day to 10mg a day since that is the "usual" dose. I am not sure why he suggested this (other than the cost savings) since we determined after trying the 10mg for three months three years ago that it wasn't quite enough. The 20mg has been working very well for me and I hate to fix something that isn't broke.

Out of curiousity, if I were to decrease to 10mg, what is the best method of doing so? I have a pill cutter, but do I suddenly cut the 20mg in half and take 10mg a day, or should I take 10mg one day and 20mg the next for a couple weeks, then to 10mg a day? What are the common withdrawl symptoms when reducing this drug dosage?
Answered by Dr. Ashish Mittal 37 minutes later
Hello again,
Thanks for follow up.

I can understand your concern. When anxiety symptoms controlled for years, in such cases medicines doses can be reduced, like your doctor is planning currently.

But same time we should monitor symptoms of anxiety/panic due to risk of recurrence of anxiety symptoms during drug tapering. If they reemerge then we have to give previous dose of medicine on which patient was well (20mg cipralex).

While tapering doses we need to be slow and watchful. In my view, first take 15 mg (10+5 mg) for 1 month, then if you are well, medicine can be reduced further to 10mg per day. There is no difference taking half of 20mg or 10mg tablets, but i would favor single 10mg tablet due to convenience. There will be no withdrawal on slow tapering as mentioned above.

Please accept my answer in case there are no further queries and recommend our services to your friends too if you have found it helpful.

Wish you good health.
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