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What About Side Effects From Antipsychotic Medications Used for Schizophrenia?

Details about side effects from antipsychotic medications including Tardive Dyskinesia, weight gain, diabetes and hyperglycemia. Read more.

Antipsychotic drugs, like virtually all medications, have unwanted side effects along with their beneficial effects. During the early phases of antipsychotic drug treatment, patients may be troubled by side effects such as drowsiness, restlessness, muscle spasms, tremor, dry mouth, or blurring of vision. Most of these can be corrected by lowering the dosage or can be controlled by other medications. Different patients have different treatment responses and side effects of various antipsychotic drugs. A patient may do better with one drug than another.

The long-term side effects of antipsychotic drugs may pose a considerably more serious problem. Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is a disorder characterized by involuntary movements most often affecting the mouth, lips, and tongue, and sometimes the trunk or other parts of the body such as arms and legs. It occurs in about 15 to 20 percent of patients who have been receiving the older, "typical" antipsychotic drugs for many years, but TD can also develop in patients who have been treated with these drugs for shorter periods of time. In most cases, the symptoms of TD are mild, and the patient may be unaware of the movements.

Antipsychotic medications developed in recent years all appear to have a much lower risk of producing TD than the older, traditional antipsychotics. The risk is not zero, however, and they can produce side effects of their own such as weight gain. In addition, if given at too high of a dose, the newer medications may lead to problems such as social withdrawal and symptoms resembling Parkinson's disease, a disorder that affects movement. Nevertheless, the newer antipsychotics are a significant advance in treatment, and their optimal use in people with schizophrenia is a subject of much current research.

Another possible serious side effect of atypical antipsychotics is hyperglycemia and diabetes. Many schizophrenia patients taking antipsychotic drugs tend to gain weight and it's not known whether the antipsychotics cause diabetes or it could be that this patient population is already susceptible to type 2 diabetes. In either case, antipsychotic drug labels now carry a warning that glucose levels in patients should be monitored by a physician.

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2007, March 6). What About Side Effects From Antipsychotic Medications Used for Schizophrenia?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, February 26 from https://www.healthyplace.com/thought-disorders/schizophrenia-articles/what-about-side-effects-from-antipsychotic-medications

Last Updated: June 11, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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