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What Is Risperidone?

A physician may prescribe risperidone for several different psychiatric issues.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 16 August 2014
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Risperidone is an antipsychotic medication that a doctor may prescribe for the treatment of a number of psychiatric conditions. This medication is among the class of drugs known as atypical antipsychotics or second generation antipsychotics, and it must be taken under the direction of a physician. There are some potentially serious neurological side effects associated with this medication that are important to discuss with a doctor before starting or stopping therapy.

This drug acts on a patient's brain chemistry. While it is primarily used to treat psychosis in patients with conditions like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, it can also sometimes be useful for autistic patients with severe irritability and mood swings, as well as patients with some forms of depression and Tourette's syndrome. This medication is not safe for use in older adults with symptoms of dementia, as it can cause complications.

Patients on risperidone tend to have difficulty with thermoregulation and can quickly become cold or overheated. They are also more sensitive to sunshine and can experience side effects like drowsiness and dizziness. Sun sensitivity makes patients more prone to burns, and it is important to wear adequate protection outdoors while on this medication and for several weeks after taking it, to make sure it completely clears the system.

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Neurologically, risperidone is associated with a condition called tardive dyskinesia, where the patient may start to experience uncontrolled involuntary movements. These may not resolve after stopping the medication. Patients can also experience other neurological symptoms like numbness, poor motor control, and nerve pain. It is important to discuss these with a doctor as soon as they appear to talk about options for managing them, including switching to a different medication.

This medication should be taken precisely as directed and should not be shared with others. Studies on pregnant and breastfeeding women taking this medication have been inconclusive, and these patients should discuss the potential risks and benefits with an obstetrician before starting treatment with risperidone. Dosages for children are different than for adults, and studies on the use of the drug in children are also incomplete, making it important to proceed with caution when pediatric patients are involved.

A patient may take other medications in conjunction with risperidone. It is important to disclose all medications currently in use so a doctor can identify potential drug conflicts. It may also be possible to cut down on medications by changing a patient's prescriptions, reducing the risk of harmful drug interactions and making it easier for the patient to remember to take her medications.

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