World Bulletin / News Desk
People using a common class of antidepressants may have slightly increased odds of suffering bleeding in the brain - though the risk is still very small, according to a Canadian study looking at more than 500,000 people.
The antidepressants are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and include widely used drugs like fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa) and paroxetine (Paxil.)
The SSRIs have been linked to a risk of stomach bleeding, but studies have come to conflicting findings on whether SSRI users have any higher risk of hemorrhagic strokes, which happen when there is bleeding in or around the brain.
For the study, which appeared in the journal Neurology, researchers pooled the findings from 16 past studies involving more than 500,000 people who were on SSRIs or not.
Overall, antidepressant users were about 40 to 50 percent more likely to suffer bleeding in or around the brain.
But while those numbers might sound big, the risks to any one person would be "extremely low," said lead researcher Daniel Hackam, an associate professor of medicine at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada.
Based on these figures, he said, there would be one brain hemorrhage for every 10,000 people using an SSRI over one year.
What's more, the findings do not prove that the antidepressants directly cause brain bleeds. It's possible, Hackham said, that SSRI users are "sicker" than non-users or have habits that put them at greater stroke risk.
The researchers tried to account for those factors in their calculations, but some of the studies they analyzed lacked key information, such as peoples's smoking and drinking habits, and whether they had diabetes.
"We can't infer cause and effect from this," Hackam said.
On the other hand, there are reasons to believe it's the medications themselves. For one, the hemorrhage risk seemed greatest in the first months after people started using an SSRI.
There's also a biological argument. SSRIs seem to make it harder for blood cells called platelets to clump together and form clots - and there can be a big drop in a person's platelet functions in the first weeks after starting an SSRI, he said.
Still, he stressed that people on the antidepressants should not be alarmed.
"I think that overall, these medications are quite safe," he added.
But people who are already at increased risk of a brain hemorrhage may need to be careful. That includes people who have had a brain bleed in the past, or are on medications that reduce blood clotting.
The recent surge in cases, now numbering 32 since the start of October, has been focused in Riyadh and the western city of Taif
The meeting organized by ALBA, a bloc of leftist-governed countries, aims to coordinate a regional strategy on the prevention and control of Ebola
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has voiced his regret that health workers returning from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa were quarantined.
In a research carried out in the U.S. reveals alarming findings about spending on illicit drugs -over $100 billion
The Township Owl Project takes juvenile birds rescued from perilous situations, such as when a building where they nested in is demolished, and gives them a new home and a new job
The three worst-hit countries of West Africa - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - account for the bulk, recording 4,912 deaths out of 10,114 cases
There are 883 confirmed cases of the deadly virus, out of which 319 people have died since 2012, the WHO says
WHO announces one million doses of Ebola vaccine to be produced in 2015
That pact would aim to improve on two decades of stuttering cooperation and rein in emissions of carbon dioxide blamed for a disruptive rise in temperatures
The World Health Organization last month urged the use of blood-derived products and serum from survivors.
Pentagon rapid-response Ebola medical team was scheduled to begin training at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas
Extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB), which is even more expensive and difficult to treat than multi drug-resistant (MDR-TB) strains, has now been reported in 100 countries around the world.
Device can be used in the field without special equipment, according to developers
The technique involved transplanting what are known as olfactory ensheathing cells into the patient's spinal cord and constructing a "nerve bridge" between two stumps of the damaged spinal column.
The meeting in Cuba is aimed at keeping Ebola at bay and it brings together senior officials from the ALBA bloc of nations
Wildlife conservationists have struggled to reverse a decline in numbers of several African species, undermined by ferocious poaching by gangs which mostly ship the ivory to Asia.