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Prolactin-Related and Metabolic Adverse Effects of Atypical Antipsychotic Agents

David C. Henderson, MD, and P. Murali Doraiswamy, MD

Published: February 28, 2008

Article Abstract

While there are many effective antipsychotics available to clinicians for treating schizophrenia or bipolar mania, the onset of antipsychotic-associated prolactin-related and metabolic adverse effects can diminish the effectiveness of treatment. Increased levels of prolactin (hyperprolactinemia) associated with some antipsychotics raises the risk of sexual side effects. The increased appetite and/or sedation (reduced activity levels) induced by other antipsychotics can lead to weight gain, dyslipidemia, and high blood pressure and, if unchecked, ultimately to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Clinicians should take steps to help their patients avoid unnecessary risks associated with antipsychotic use. These steps include monitoring risk factors for developing these illnesses by taking careful patient histories and baseline measurements of patients’ weight and blood chemistry. Patients should be made aware of potential metabolic and prolactin-related side effects, and periodic checks should also be made to watch for changes in weight, body mass index, waist size, blood pressure, fasting glucose, or lipid levels that could be harmful and may increase risk for cardiovascular disease.

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