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Signs of Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome

Neuroleptic malignant syndrome is a life-threatening reaction that occurs from taking antipsychotic medications. The exact cause of this syndrome is not known. But it may occur when antipsychotic medicines cause a person's body temperature regulating center to function improperly.

The first signs of neuroleptic malignant syndrome include:

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  • High fever, between 102°F (38.89°C) and 103°F (39.44°C).
  • Fast and/or irregular heartbeat.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Severe sweating.

If treatment is not sought, more severe symptoms develop and include:

  • Tight and inflexible muscles.
  • Changes in alertness.
  • Blood pressure changes (either lower or higher than normal).
  • Shakiness.
  • Seizures.

People with neuroleptic malignant syndrome who do not get treatment can die from complications of the syndrome. Complications include absence of breathing, kidney failure, and life-threatening body fluid and chemical imbalances.

Sometimes people who have a fever and changes in their heart and breathing patterns think they have the flu. People who take antipsychotic medicines and develop these symptoms need to be seen by a health professional.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Miklos Ferenc Losonczy, MD, PhD - Psychiatry
Last Revised August 19, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 19, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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