What exactly is serotonin syndrome? How long does it usually last and how can we easily identify this syndrome? What treatments are currently available to treat it and what can we do if we have it?
Serotonin is a chemical compound that acts as a neurotransmitter and can be found in the human body.
Serotonin is developed in the intestine and in the brain, and we can find it in the central nervous system, in the gastrointestinal tract and in the nervous system.
Serotonin plays a very important role in our body, since it is responsible for regulating a wide variety of psychological and general functions of our body.
Directly and indirectly, serotonin activates brain cell functions, regulating bowel movements, controlling our appetite, and accelerating wound healing through vasoconstriction and clotting.
In addition, it has effects on our mood, as well as on anxiety or happiness. It also affects bone density and is closely related to sexual desires.
Discovering serotonin syndrome
Serotonin syndrome is characterized by increased stimulation of the central nervous system and peripheral serotonin receptors, mainly caused by an excessive level of serotonin in the human body.
Symptoms and signs of serotonin syndrome
Serotonin syndrome usually always presents with a series of signs and symptoms that range from a triad of autonomic hyperactivity, neuromuscular alteration, to changes in mental state. Among them we find:
- Overactive bowel sounds
- Excessive sweating
- Clonus (Inducible or spontaneous)
- Ocular clonus
Altered mental state
Clinical symptoms are highly variable and do not always have to present all symptoms at the same time. In the most severe cases, an overdose of serotonin can lead to death.
To better understand the consequences of its deficiency, its benefits and how to increase it naturally, here you can obtain more information about serotonin.
How long does serotonin syndrome last?
Symptoms can begin to be noticeable within a few minutes of ingestion or even have effects 6 to 24 hours after taking it.
Generally, serotonin syndrome subsides within 24 hours after stopping the drug related to this substance.
However, the symptoms of serotonin syndrome can last from a few days to 5 weeks after arrest depending on some factors.
Causes and risk factors of serotonin syndrome
Serotonin syndrome occurs when an adverse reaction to serotonin energetic agents occurs. These agents are a chemical that alters the effects serotonin has on the human body.
These can include drugs such as serotonin receptor agonists / antagonists, serotonin releasing agents, and monoamine oxidase inhibitors. These drugs are usually prescribed by a healthcare professional who is skilled in the management of depression and behavioral disorders.
Serotonin syndrome can occur as a normal consequence of drug therapy, or drug interactions.
There are certain drugs that can contribute to the development of serotonin syndrome, such as:
- Amphetamines and derivatives
- Antidepressants / Mood stabilizers
- Anti migraine drugs
Serotonin levels can also be increased by the use of recreational drugs or dietary supplements.
How to diagnose serotonin syndrome?
The diagnosis of serotonin syndrome depends mainly on the evaluation and identification of the signs and symptoms mentioned above in the presence of the use of drugs containing serotonergic agents.
Vital signs and reflexes of the patient who may require hospitalization are checked. Symptoms can occur after adding serotonergic medication to medical therapy, when medication doses are changed, or after a high dose of serotonergic agents.
The diagnosis is usually based on the Hunter Serotonin Toxicity Criteria or in the Sternbach criteria. Hunter's criteria for inferring serotonin toxicity in patients known to take any nin agent require any of the following to be present:
- Spontaneous clonus
- Ocular clonus with agitation or sweating
- Tremor and hyperreflexia
- Hypertonia, temperature above 38 ° C, and inducible or ocular clonus
The Sternbach criteria need at least 3 of the 10 clinical features to match along with a recent addition or immediate increase to the previous medication regimen of known serotonergic drugs.
Treatment of serotonin syndrome
To treat serotonin syndrome, it is essential to identify and eliminate the agent that causes the syndrome. When the intake has been recent or when there is an overdose, activated charcoal is used to prevent absorption. Benzodiazepines are allowed to control agitation and seizure.
Supportive measures such as IV fluids can also be administered to balance appropriate hydration levels.
There are cases in which it can be used Cyproheptadine to reverse the condition. In the most severe cases, active sedation and assisted ventilation may also be required.
How to prevent serotonin syndrome
When taking serotonin-related medications, it is important to exercise caution when ingesting them. Only a doctor can prescribe the dose of serotonin drugs you need and he will help you understand what the possible side effects are, as well as what to do in case of poisoning.
It is also not recommended to stop treatment without the advice of a doctor, as this could lead to an immediate drop in serotonin levels that could have significant medical consequences.
Consult a doctor about the medications you are taking before starting any serotonergic drugs or agents, as these may be incompatible with your current treatment.
Serotonin syndrome can develop abruptly after increased intake of serotonergic drugs. In this case, it is essential to request help quickly, since otherwise, the consequences may be unconsciousness, coma or even death.