Fibromyalgia is a perplexing and often debilitating disorder, but treatment can help. Lyrica, a medicine used to treat patients with seizures, pain from shingles, and nerve pain from diabetesand spinal cord injuries, is offering new hope to those living with the pain of fibromyalgia. Here is what you need to know about the use of Lyrica to manage fibromyalgia, from the drug's benefits to its side effects.
What Is Lyrica?
Lyrica (pregabalin) is an FDA-approved drug treatment for fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes long-term, widespread muscle pain and tenderness, trouble sleeping, and overwhelming tiredness.
Lyrica is not an antidepressant. Rather, it is a drug that targets nerve signals. The medicine has long been used to relieve nerve pain in patients with shingles and diabetic neuropathy. It is also used to treat partial seizures.
How Does Lyrica Work?
Fibromyalgia pain is believed to be brought on by nerve-related changes, which cause nerve cells to fire off too many signals. This renders a person overly sensitive to stimuli that are normally not painful.
Scientists aren't exactly sure how Lyrica improves fibromyalgia symptoms, but laboratory research suggests Lyrica helps decrease the number of nerve signals, and as a result, calms down overly sensitive nerve cells. This appears to alleviate pain in patients with fibromyalgia.
How Do You Take Lyrica?
When used for fibromyalgia, Lyrica is a capsule that is usually taken in divided doses twice a day. Doses range from 150 milligrams to 450 milligrams a day. Your doctor will determine the best dose for you. If you miss taking one capsule, you should take it as soon as possible -- unless it is close to the time when you are supposed to take the next one. Never take two or more at the same time.
You should not suddenly stop taking this medicine. Doing so can give you a headache, upset stomach, diarrhea, and sleeping difficulties. If you wish or need to stop taking the medicine, your doctor will tell you how to slowly reduce your dose over time.
The Benefits of Lyrica
Lyrica can quickly reduce pain, improve sleep, and help some people with fibromyalgia function better and get back to their daily routines. In studies, some patients reported significantly less pain after taking Lyrica for only one week. Lyrica, however, may not help everyone with fibromyalgia.
Side Effects of Lyrica
Side effects appear related to how much Lyrica you take. That means the higher your dose of Lyrica, the more likely you may be to have side effects.
The most common side effects are:
- Mild-to-moderate dizziness
Other common side effects include:
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Swelling of the hands and feet
- Weight gain
Lyrica may also make it hard to concentrate and pay attention, which can make driving dangerous. Ask your doctor if it is OK to drive when taking this medicine. You should not drive or operate machinery until you know how the drug affects you.
In rare cases, severe allergic reactions occur. Seek immediate medical help if you have:
Before You Take Lyrica
Always make sure your doctor knows about all the other medications you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs, as well as herbs and supplements. Some prescription medicines may interact with Lyrica and may lead to dangerous side effects. Such drugs include:
- Blood pressure medicines called ACE inhibitors; taking Lyrica with these medicines increases your chance for swelling and hives.
- Diabetes medicines pioglitazone (Actos) or rosiglitazone (Avandia); if you take these drugs with Lyrica, you may have a higher risk for swelling or weight gain.
- Narcotic pain medicines (such as oxycodone), anxiety medicines (such as lorazepam), and tranquilizers; combining these drugs with Lyrica increases your chances for dizziness and sleepiness.
- Sleep medicines make you nod off, and Lyrica can cause drowsiness. Combining the two can be dangerous.
Do not drink alcohol when on Lyrica. Doing so can increase Lyrica's side effects and make you dangerously sleepy.
Also tell your doctor if you have any other medical conditions, including:
- Bleeding disorders or low platelet counts
- Heart problems
- Kidney problems or if you receive kidney dialysis (a lower dose of Lyrica is needed if you have kidney problems)
Women who are breastfeeding, pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, should talk to their doctor about whether Lyrica is right for them. Researchers do not know if Lyrica is safe to take during pregnancy, or if it passes into breast milk.