Antidepressants are a group of prescription medicines that treat depression and may also be used to treat other health conditions. They work by increasing certain chemicals in one’s brain that are directly linked to a person’s mood, emotion, and perception of pleasure. Antidepressants are divided into five different types and based on which chemicals in the brain they affect, are categorized accordingly. The different types include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs work by slowing the re-absorption of and altering the brain’s chemical balance of serotonin. Serotonin is the chemical in one’s body that is directly related to one’s moods. Common examples of SSRIs include:
- Selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): SNRIs work to elevate one’s mood by interacting with both the serotonin and norepinephrine levels in one’s brain. They can be prescribed to treat anxiety, depression, and some chronic pain conditions. Common examples of SNRIs:
- Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs): TCAs affect three brain chemicals: serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. They are prescribed less frequently as they are an older class of antidepressants that can cause more side effects than other options. Some examples of TCAs include:
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): MAOIs block the actions of monoamine oxidase enzymes (which are responsible for breaking down neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin) in the brain. These drugs were the first type of antidepressants developed and are typically used as a last resort.
- Atypical antidepressants: these do not fit into the standard antidepressant classes (e.g., SSRIs, SNRIs, MAOIs, tricyclic antidepressants, etc.). A common example is trazodone that is categorized according to its mechanism of action, which is as a serotonin receptor (5HT2a) antagonist and reuptake inhibitor, or SARI. These drugs work by moderating levels of serotonin in the brain and increasing its availability in the central nervous system (CNS).
As is true with taking any type of medication there are associated risks. The specific risks will vary from person to person, as they will depend on several contributing factors (e.g., the individual’s health history, the presence of any additional mental health ailments, substance abuse issues, genetics, etc.). Blurred vision or reduced visual acuity, for example, is listed as a possible side effect of many antidepressant medications. In addition to being unable to see clearly, other vision problems that may be a side effect of antidepressant use could include the following, provided by Verywell Mind:
- Night blindness (inability to see in dark conditions)
- Vitreous floaters (spots in vision)
- Photophobia (light sensitivity)
- Diplopia (double vision)
- Palinopsia (persistence of visual phenomena)
- Visual field defect (loss of part of the normal field of vision)
- Photopsia (eye floaters or flashes)
- Visual snow syndrome (flickering dots in vision)
An individual that experiences any adverse side effects when taking antidepressants, including vision complications, is encouraged to consult his or her healthcare provider immediately.
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