Last Edited: April 16th, 2012

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Risperdal is an atypical neuroleptic medication. It is a second-generation antipsychotic that is approved for the treatment of schizophrenia in teenagers and adults. Physicians also prescribe the medication for irritability in children and teenagers with autism. Adults can take Risperdal for the short-term management of mixed or acute manic phases of bipolar disorder. You can take it as your only medication or in conjunction with valproate or lithium. It is also approved for the treatment of bipolar mania in children and teenagers. Healthcare providers can prescribe Risperdal to treat other conditions.

Side Effects

The use of this drug is associated with a risk for sleep disturbances and constipation. It also causes restlessness and repetitive, involuntary movements, such as eye blinking, grimacing, tongue protrusion and lip puckering. Some patients can experience an increased sensitivity to the sun or intolerance to cold or hot temperatures. Speak with your physician if you are routinely exposed to extreme temperatures.

This medication can cause metabolic disturbances, such as considerable weight gain, elevated cholesterol or triglycerides and blood glucose levels. Risperdal can increase your risk for diabetes. Speak with your physician, if you notice symptoms of hyperglycemia, such as increased hunger, thirst or urination. If you have diabetes, your physician will monitor your blood glucose to ensure that it is under control.

You should not take Risperdal if you are hypersensitive to the medication. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include swelling that affects your tongue, face or lips. Other symptoms are throat constriction and trouble breathing. These are serious complications that require emergency medical treatment. Another serious potential reaction is neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS). This condition is most likely to occur in patients who are not following their prescription regimen or their dose has recently changed. The initial symptoms include fever, fluctuating blood pressure, muscle rigidity and tremors. Contact your healthcare provider for treatment because the syndrome can also cause delirium, coma and death.

Risperdal elevates a hormone known as prolactin. This imbalance can cause milk production and cessation of the menstrual cycle in women and enlarged breast and impotence in men. Risperdal has several other sexual side effects. It decreases libido and inhibits orgasms in women. Men who experience a painful and persistent erection while taking the medication should seek urgent medical assistance. If left untreated, the condition can cause irreversible damage to your penis. Physicians can modify your therapy to alleviate these sexual side effects.

Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and Dementia

If you are considering becoming pregnant or do become pregnant while on this medication, you should speak with your healthcare providers to determine your options. It can cause tremors, feeding problems and respiratory issues in newborns that were exposed to Risperdal during gestation. Mothers should not breast feed their babies while taking Risperdal. The drug is present in your breast milk and can affect your baby.

The medication is not approved for the treatment of elderly patients experiencing dementia-related psychosis because there is an increased risk for death due to pneumonia and heart failure. Risperdal also increases the possibility that these patients can experience a stroke.

Dosage Information

You should not alter your dosage without consulting your physician. Increasing the dose too rapidly or taking more Risperdal than is recommended can increase your risk for movement disorders and NMS. A total daily dose that exceeds 12 mg per day is not clinically proven to produce better results than lower doses. It is also associated with movement disorders. Patients who experience unusual daytime drowsiness or require an unusual amount of sleep should speak with their clinician about taking their regular dose in divided doses.