Cymbalta is often prescribed to treat conditions such as depression, neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia, and generalized anxiety disorder. The medication works by affecting the levels of certain chemicals in the brain (serotonin and norepinephrine). Cymbalta comes in capsule form and is generally taken once or twice a day. Commonly reported side effects include nausea, drowsiness, and dizziness.
What Is Cymbalta?
Cymbalta® (duloxetine hydrochloride) is a prescription medicine used to treat the following conditions:
- Depression (also known as major depression or clinical depression)
- Peripheral diabetic neuropathy pain (nerve pain in the hands, feet, arms, or legs due to diabetes)
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
How Does It Work?Cymbalta is part of a class of drugs called serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs for short. SNRIs affect specific chemicals within the brain known as serotonin and norepinephrine. These are two of several chemicals used to send messages from one nerve cell to another.
As a message travels down a nerve, it causes the end of the cell to release serotonin or norepinephrine. The chemical enters the gap between the first nerve cell and the one next to it. When enough serotonin or norepinephrine reaches the second nerve cell, it activates receptors on the cell and the message continues on its way. The first cell then quickly absorbs any serotonin or norepinephrine that remains in the gap between the cells. This is called "reuptake."
Normally, this process works without any problems. But when the levels of serotonin or norepinephrine become unbalanced, it can cause a variety of conditions, including depression or anxiety. Cymbalta helps to block the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine so that more remains in the space between the brain's nerve cells. This gives the chemicals a better chance of activating the receptors on the next nerve cell.
Although it is not entirely clear how Cymbalta works for pain, the drug appears to help block the pain signals in the spinal cord or brain. This may help relieve the pain of peripheral diabetic neuropathy. It is not clear how exactly Cymbalta works for fibromyalgia pain.