Amitriptyline is a medicine used to treat pain. It’s especially good for nerve pain such as back pain and neuralgia. It can also help prevent migraine attacks.
Amitriptyline is available on prescription. It comes as tablets and as a liquid. Amitriptyline is also used to treat depression.
Who can and can’t take amitriptyline?
Amitriptyline can be taken by most adults. It can also be taken by children aged 2 to 17 years for some types of nerve pain.
Amitriptyline isn’t suitable for some people. Check with your doctor before starting to take amitriptyline if you:
- have had an allergic reaction to amitriptyline or any other medicines in the past
- have a heart problem – amitriptyline can make some heart problems worse
- have a rare illness called porphyria
- have liver or kidney problems
- have epilepsy – amitriptyline can increase seizures
- have ever taken any medicines for depression – some rarely-used antidepressants can interfere with amitriptyline
- are trying to become pregnant, are already pregnant or you are breastfeeding – amitriptyline isn’t always recommended in pregnancy or while breastfeeding
- have an eye problem called glaucoma – amitriptyline can increase the pressure in your eye
- have thoughts about harming yourself or ending your life
If you have diabetes, amitriptyline may change your blood sugar level. Check your blood sugar more often for the first few weeks of treatment with amitriptyline. Talk to your diabetes doctor if the reading goes too high or low.
Like all medicines, amitriptyline can cause side effects in some people, but many people have no side effects or only minor ones.
Some of the common side effects of amitriptyline gradually improve as your body gets used to it.
Common side effects
Because the dose of amitriptyline for pain is lower than the dose for depression the common side effects tend to be milder and go away within a few days.
Keep taking the medicine but talk to your doctor or pharmacist if these side effects bother you or don’t go away:
- dry mouth
- feeling sleepy
- difficulty peeing
Serious side effects
It happens rarely, but some people have a serious side effect after taking amitriptyline.
Call a doctor straight away if you get:
- a fast or irregular heartbeat
- yellow skin or the whites of your eyes go yellow – these can be signs of a liver problem
- a headache, feel confused or weak, get muscle cramps or a seizure – these can be signs of a low sodium level in your blood
- thoughts about harming yourself or ending your life
- eye pain, a change in your eyesight, swelling or redness in or around the eye
- severe constipation or you’re unable to pee and it’s causing severe tummy pain
- weakness on one side of your body, trouble speaking or thinking, loss of balance or blurred eyesight – these can be signs of a stroke