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Headache, short term memory loss and antidepressants
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Headache, short term memory loss and antidepressants

I am a 34 year old female.  I have been experiencing headaches on the left side of my head daily for about a month now.  The headache is constant and encompasses the entire left side of my head from the base of my skull to the front of my forehead and behind my left eye.  I have to take ibuprofen several times a day and get very little relief.  It basically just takes the edge off the headache.  The headache creates a strange sensation that is hard to describe.  The right side of my head is completely fine, no pain what so ever and left side is pulsating.  It progressively gets worse throughout the day.  

I have been on Zoloft 50mg for about a month and a half for depression.  I was previously on Prozac for about 3 weeks but experienced some skin reaction and was switched to Zoloft.  Two weeks ago my doctor put also put me on Wellbutrin 150mg to help counteract the sexual side effects of the Zoloft.  I also take Synthroid 112mcg and Ortho Tricylene birth control pills. The depression is no longer a problem for me, but the doctor says I need to remain on Zoloft for at least six months to prevent a reoccurance.

For the last week and a half  I have been experiencing what I consider to be a great deal of short term memory loss.  Such as beginning a conversation and completely forgetting what my point was. The thought is totally gone as if I never had it to begin with.  I can't seem to be able to verbally complete a thought.  This happened to me yesterday while teaching at least 8 times.  It is very frustrating and scary and I am concerned about what is causing these problems.  Could the Wellbutrin be causing this?  Or a combination of the medications?  The headaches seems to be getting worse also.  Today it woke me up, where before it would begin shortly after waking up.  Any help or advice you could offer me in regards to the headaches and memory loss would be greatly appreciated.
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Dear Terri:

Sorry about your headache and depression.  Zoloft can cause ejaculaton problems in the male (not your problem) and breast enlargement and bleeding problems during the menses.  I am not sure why your physician/neurologist prescribed Wellbrutin for the latter?  Wellbrutin has central nervous system excitatory properties and can lower the seizure threshold or even produce seizures.  I would bet that your problems are arising from the wellbutrin.  Ask your physician if you can wean off the wellbutrin.

Sincerely,

CCF Neuro MD
17 Comments
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Terri:
I am a psych nurse, and Zoloft frequently causes headaches and I would bet that it is the culprit in your case.  Sexual side effects are also common, either decreased libido or difficulty achieving orgasm. If it were me, I'd ask the doctor to prescribe something else, there are tons of other antidepressant medications on the market with different side effect profiles, and of course, side effects vary from one person to another.  Your doctor is right about needing to stay on a medication for at least six months to prevent relapse, and some people need to continue indefinitely.
Good luck!
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thanks for the comment.

CCF Neuro MD
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My 17 year old daughter is experiencing the same kind of headaches.  She is not on any medication at the time.  She does have depression and mod swing disorders but doen't take her medication.  A catscan came back normal.  The doc at the ER diagnosed her as possibly in the early stages of developing migraines.  What do you think?
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Dear Cathy:

It is difficult for me to say, I haven't gotten to examine your daughter, I don't really know what the headaches are described as, I don't know the family history, etc.  I would suggest that you see a neurologist.  

Sincerely,

CCF Neuro MD
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your story sounds very similar to mine.  I was on Paxil 10 mgs for about 6 months and also klonopine .5mgs to counteract the side effects of the Paxil.  I had a severe headache begin on the left side of my head only in July of this year-it wasa migraine because I has some visual after effects.  At the time of the beginning of the headache I was weaning off of klonopin(no picnic) The docotors immediately increased my dosage of klonopin to see if it helped-It didnt.  I now have left sided headaches almost daily and have seen many a doctor-they say I am having migraines(I think this is all connected to the meds)  and I also have numbness on the left side of my body.    I see a specialist in headaches today(an appointment I have waited 4 months for!)  I am currently taking nuerontin for the headaches-It has seemed to help a little but not entirely.  Hope you find some answers.
tracey
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thanks for your comments.

CCF Neuro MD
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I am an avid supporter of the theory that "if you never had the problem before the intake, then the intake is the culprit".  My 18 year old niece took Zoloft from the time she was 14 until switched over to Paxil.  Along with the Paxil came the headaches and Xanax.  Then she was taken off the Xanax and put on Klonnopin to get her off the Xanax.  Needless to say, her headaches became so intense she could barely function (as if the Panic Disorder wasn't bad enough).  She tried to tell her doctor that Paxil gave her the headache.  He said, "No!  Paxil doesn't cause headaches, even when I take you off in X-amount increments and follow the same method with the stinking Klonnopin!"  She felt so alone she didn't know what to do... until I logged her on to Medhelp.org and put her into the Addiction Forum.  It was there that she discovered the perils of Paxil and Klonnopin... and the comfort of knowing that she wasn't the Lone Ranger in her complaints, with sexual dysfunction being one of them (Zoloft didn't conain that, but the Paxil did).  I just had to comment on this topic... because my own daughter and sister complained of the very same side-effects. - Christine
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thanks for the comment.

CCF Neuro MD
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The comments about short term memory problems and Wellbutrin got my attention.  About 15 months ago I started on Effexor 75mg daily, followed by the addition of Wellbutrin about 12 months ago, 150 mg daily, upped to 300 mg daily about 8 months ago.  The Effexor was discontinued about 4 months ago.  

Shortly after starting the Effexor, I noticed more difficulty with my memory, especially remembering the names of things.  I will be talking and all of a sudden a name or word will be on the tip of my tongue - and then it will be gone, quite gone.  Rather unnerving.

Also was taking a college art history course which calls for lots and lots of memory work and found the memorization much more difficult than would be normal for me.  I would be able to picture the idea but not be able to come up with the words related to it for anything.  

I am also hypothyroid, very poorly controlled, I might add, but this much difficulty with my memory was not noticeable until I started on the antidepressants.  All I want to know is, will this become and permanent problem if I stay on the antidepressants?  Any information would be appreciated.  Karen
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Dear Karen:

If you stop taking the medication and the memory comes back, then it would be medication related.  I would ask your physician to switch medications and see.

Sincerely,

CCF Neuro MD
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I have been experiencing vertigo episodes for a year now that seem to come from migraines.  I have tried diazide, Inderol LA, and now Elavil.  I was originally taking the Elavil for Fibromyalgia, and now my neurologist has upped the dosage to 50 mg to see if this helps with the vertigo.  He also gave me Zomig for the migraines and I took some yesterday and my headache was relieved, but my whole body felt bruised and battered???  The only other medications that I am on are over the counter allergy med's, and Mircette.  Could the Inderol still be in my system and cause a reaction to the Zomig, or is Elavil reacting with it?  Elavil is not a MAOI, so it shouldn't react.  Also, lately my joint pain or fibromyalgia has gotten worse.  Any ideas or similar problems?  At least the dizzy feeling has subsided and as of two weeks, I have not experienced another vertigo attack.
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Hi.  Your comment got my attention.  I was actually looking for something unrelated to your problem, but felt compelled to comment after reading your question.  My mother is 56.  She experienced what seemed like depression and memory problems (also concentration or focusing problems).  She was put on Zolof.  After what appeared to my Dad as a seizure, she had an MRI done.  This revealed a brain tumor in her frontal lobe.  I certainly don't want to scare you, but we were told my mother has had this tumor for 10 years.  If you haven't had an MRI talk to your doctor.  If insurance covers it, it can't hurt to know for sure.  With your symptoms, I know I would get one.  By the way my Mom recovered nicely from surgery.  The tumor is gone.  Good luck with your condition.  May God be with you.
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Dear Kirsten:

Thanks for your comments.

CCF Neuro MD
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Many Symptoms, Many Possibilities, anyone willing to discuss cerebral perfusion pressure?
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My Grandmother had some major surgery about 4 weeks ago.  We noticed some confusion and short-term memory loss that we were told was a side effect of the anesthesia.  We were also told it would go away in about a week, which it seemed to do.  Now, she is recovering in a nursing home.  My grandmother also has had to deal with a slight case of depression over the years.  The doctor that oversees her medication there changed her prescription from Valium to Klonnopin.  Within a day of the switch, we noticed confusion and short term memory loss again.  We can't seem to convince her current doctor that it may be related to the Klonnopin.  Has anyone else seen this?  The Klonnopin is supposedly a new drug and is therefore better than the Valium.
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I am a 60 year old female diagnosed with depression about seven years ago.  There is a history of depression in my family.  In the early morning I'm taking Celexa 20mg, with 10mg of ritalin, 60mg of Ginko biloba, vitamins.  At 1-2 pm I take another 10 mg of ritalin.  At bedtime I take 25 mg of doxepin and 60 mg of ginko biloba. I also take a low does of estrogen.  I have tried many other antipressant drugs but most have failed due to one reason or another.  In the last year I have had a problem of being "a little spacey".  And higher does of many antidepressants also make me spacey.  Until a week ago I was doing fairly well.  Recently I have become extremely forgetful, not of facts, but more of forgetting to complete a task, or failing remember an important chore on a list of to do.  I frequently mispell words when I'm jotting down info. What is going on?  Please help me figure this out.  Thanks.


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