What is ‘Serotonin syndrome’?
Serotonin is an essential chemical for nerve and brain function and would be present in adequate amounts in a healthy individual. When certain medications are used serotonin levels can rise exponentially by influencing its production or its metabolism and thereby retain more serotonin within the brain. Even though it is essential for functioning, too much serotonin can give rise to many unwanted manifestations which at times can be life threatening and as a collection of manifestations it is given the name ‘serotonin syndrome’.
What are the manifestations of serotonin syndrome?
When a drug which can causes an increase in serotonin is taken, it is possible to develop serotonin syndrome within hours of its intake. But, if the medication is withheld, most often the manifestations would disappear within few days. Thus, symptoms such as seizures, high fever, loss of consciousness, irregular heartbeat, sweating, diarrhea, fast heart rate, confusion, delirium, headache and restlessness should prompt a possible serotonin toxicity in susceptible individuals.
What treatment options are available to counteract serotonin effect?
In most instances, the only treatment that would be necessary is withholding the drugs which lead to a serotonin overload and following such action the signs and symptoms pertaining to this condition will gradually settle. But, you should visit your doctor and obtain his or her advice in order to prevent further complications or else any future occurrences of the same.
But, if the manifestations are severe, you would have to seek emergency medical attention due to the potential dangers that pose to your life. Thus, following being admitted to the hospital, doctors will assess the situation and will determine necessary drugs and other treatment methods to be administered following withholding the drug which caused the reaction.
Most probably, a patient admitted with moderate to severe serotonin syndrome will receive an intravenous line and a normal saline drip. Furthermore, if there is a breathing difficulty, oxygen will be given along with appropriate treatment for high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythm or else for the rapid heart rate.
As serotonin can lead to muscle spasm and rigidity which can be detrimental if certain muscle groups are involved, these individuals would also need muscle relaxants in the acute phase of the condition. This could also be supported by giving medicinal agents which can block the production of serotonin.
Furthermore, it may necessitate for a person to be put on a ventilator machine in certain instances where vital muscles and other body systems are at risk of failing.