Lyrica (Pregabalin) is a medicine used to treat neuropathic (nerve) pain and fibromyalgia. It is also used outside rheumatology to treat epilepsy and generalized anxiety disorder.
Lyrica is a derived from the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA plays an important role in the body’s central nervous system where it can reduce the excitability of neurons, the type of cell that the brain and nerves are made out of.
Lyrica is available in oral capsules of different strengths that are taken twice or three times a day.
A usual starting dose is 75 mg (as one capsule) twice a day.
Important Tests and Risks
If a patient needs to stop taking Lyrica, they should do it slowly with the advice of their doctor. The dose should be reduced over a week or two. There is a risk of side effects if it is stopped suddenly.
If a patient misses a dose, they can simply re-start the medication. It is only important to wean down Lyrica if a patient wants to completely stop the medication.
How Lyrica Works
Lyrica is a derived from the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). It belongs to a family of similar medications that are also derived from GABA called gabapentinoids.
GABA plays an important role in the body’s central nervous system where it can reduce the excitability of neurons, the type of cell that the brain and nerves are made out of.
Although Lyrica is made from GABA, it does not bind to GABA receptors. Instead, it changes how a specific type of ion channels found on the surface of nerve cells (neurons) like operate. The resulting effect is that the body’s neurons become less excited, including those neurons responsible for feeling certain types of pain.
This effect can benefit patients who experience neuropathic pain and those who suffer from fibromyalgia.
Side Effects of Lyrica
Lyrica changes how neurons in the brain work. Its most common side effect is dizziness. It can rarely cause confusion. Lyrica can also make people feel weak and tired. Patients should be careful when driving or operating machinery while taking this medicine.
Lyrica can also cause weight gain. Patients should watch what they eat and pay attention to their weight more carefully while taking this medicine.
People taking Lyrica should talk to their doctor if they are concerned about any side effects.
Other possible side-effects of Lyrica include:
- Blurry vision – Lyrica can cause blurring of the vision.
- Leg swelling – Lyrica can cause swelling of the legs. It can also worsen a condition called congestive heart failure (CHF). Patients should tell their doctor if they have CHF or if they develop leg swelling.
- Nausea & constipation – Lyrica can rarely make people feel sick, cause a dry mouth, or cause constipation.
- Headache – Lyrica can rarely cause a headache.
- Allergic reaction – Lyrica can rarely cause an allergic reaction. Symptoms include swelling of the face, mouth, lips, gums, tongue or neck and trouble breathing. Patients should call their doctor if this happens.
- Skin rash – Lyrica can rarely cause an allergic rash. Patients who experience this should stop taking the medicine and let their doctor know about any new rashes, hives, or blisters.
Lyrica has not been studied in pregnancy. Patients should let their doctor know if they are planning to get pregnant or if you are breastfeeding.
There is a risk of side effects if Lyrica is stopped right away. It is advisable to gradually reduce the dose over a week or two (patients should consult with their doctor). Lyrica should only be stopped right away in cases where there is a severe allergic reaction.
Who Should NOT Take Lyrica
Patients who should NOT be taking Lyrica include:
- Possibly patients who are taking other medications that may also cause dizziness or drowsiness
- Patients who have experienced an allergic reaction
Patients who become pregnant while taking Lyrica should notify their doctor.
When to Call a Doctor
Patients taking Lyrica should call their doctor if they feel sick and want to stop, or if they are concerned about any side effects.
Other reasons to call a doctor while taking Lyrica include:
- Severe leg swelling
- Shortness of breath
- Allergic reaction
Watch Dr. Andy Thompson, a Canadian rheumatologist, introduce Lyrica.