What to Expect When Prescribed Zoloft for Fibromyalgia
Many patients are prescribed Zoloft for fibromyalgia. Because fibromyalgia depression and anxiety are are some of the worst symptoms of fibromyalgia, antidepressants are often prescribed for fibromyalgia patients. These symptoms can be caused by fibromyalgia, and they can also be an underlying cause. Doctors will often prescribe antidepressants to relieve the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Antidepressants can also provide some pain relief. They are also often helpful for patients who have trouble sleeping. One of the antidepressants prescribed for fibromyalgia is Zoloft. Zoloft is the brand name for sertraline, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). SSRIs are some of the most commonly prescribed antidepressants. Zoloft (sertraline) is one of the most-prescribed SSRIs for treating depression and anxiety, and many doctors also prescribe Zoloft for fibromyalgia patients, both to treat the concurring anxiety and depression and to treat the disease itself.
What is Zoloft?
Zoloft is the brand name for the drug sertraline, which is an antidepressant in a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The way SSRIs work is not totally understood, but researchers believe they restore chemical balance in the brain, and/ or affect positively communication between nerve cells in the central nervous system. Zoloft is used by itself or in combination with other drugs for patients dealing with major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and anxiety disorders. Many doctors also prescribe Zoloft for fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Why would my doctor prescribe Zoloft for fibromyalgia?
Research shows that SSRIs like Zoloft are effective helping people sleep, can improve overall well-being, and provide pain relief – with lesser effects on tender points and fatigue from fibromyalgia. Also, because fibromyalgia and anxiety are often diagnosed togehther, Zoloft can provide some relief from the anxiety. Up to 20% of people diagnosed with fibromyalgia are also diagnosed with anxiety. Fibromyalgia and depression also often go together, so an SSRI antidepressant like Zoloft can provide relief for fibromyalgia depression. Even if it doesn’t treat the fibromyalgia directly, it can be helpful with some of the conditions that are secondary to fibromyalgia.
Because stressful life events can cause fibromyalgia flares, which in turn can cause anxiety, which then turns into a vicious cycle of anxiety and pain, SSRIs like Zoloft can help prevent flares. When prescribed Zoloft for fibromyalgia, you may find yourself better able to cope with day-to-day stressors and anxiety that could in turn lead to fibro flares. Anything that will help prevent flares may be worth investigating.
It also common for people who are unable to go about their daily activities of living to become depressed. Not being able to care for your children, or go to a job can have a debilitating effect on your life, and an antidepressant like Zoloft can help manage the depressed feelings. Taking Zoloft for fibromyalgia may improve your ability to go about your daily activities of living, such as shopping, driving, going to school or religious activities.
According to one study, 70 women patients were tracked for six months to compare the efficacy of Zoloft to physical therapy. The study concluded that the patients taking Zoloft for fibromyalgia had better outcomes terms of pain, morning stiffness, and sleep disorders than the patients treated with physical therapy and ultrasonography.
What are the side effects of Zoloft?
Like any drug, Zoloft does have some side effects, some of which can be unpleasant. Many patients describe feeling nauseated during the first 10 days or so, which wears off as your body adjusts to the medication. Weight gain is also reported at higher dosages, so that may be something to take into consideration before taking Zoloft for fibromyalgia symptoms. Talk to your doctor with any questions you may have about taking Zoloft for fibromyalgia, or any medication, for that matter, before starting a new regimen.
Common side effects, which if they persist, let your doctor know:
- dry mouth
- loss of appetite
- increased sweating
- upset stomach
- trouble sleeping
You should contact your doctor if you experience any of these unlikely but serious side effects:
- easy bruising/bleeding
- decreased interest in sex
- decrease in sexual ability (ejaculation delay)
- muscle cramps/weakness
- shaking (tremor)
- unusual weight loss
Finally, seek immediate medial attention if you experience black or bloody stools, vomit that looks like coffee grounds, blurred vision, eye pain, swelling or redness of the eyes, widened pupils, or vision changes. If you’re concerned about how Zoloft will affect you, there are many internet forums dedicated to fibromyalgia, including many that specifically discuss taking Zoloft for fibromyalgia. If you are a member of a fibromyalgia support group, ask if anyone there is taking or has taken Zoloft for fibromyalgia, and ask them how it’s working. This type of information is invaluable when making decisions on treatment.
Should I take Zoloft for fibromyalgia?
Zoloft, like all SSRIs, is only available by prescription, so you need to speak with a medical provider who is able to write them. If your fibromyalgia is accompanied by depression and/or anxiety, then an SSRI may be a good treatment option for you. There are providers trained specifically in the treatment of fibromyalgia, so it may be helpful to find a specialist. Talk with your talk doctor about whether or not you are a good candidate for treatment with Zoloft for fibromyalgia.
Have you been prescribed Zoloft for fibromyalgia? Let us know how it works (or doesn’t) in the comments.