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Tramadol Side Effects

By Lisabetta DiVita ; Updated August 14, 2017

Tramadol is a white capsule used to provide constant treatment for chronic pain. According to MedlinePlus, it belongs to the class of medicines known as opiate agonists and alters the body's sensation to pain. Typically, 50 to 100 mg of tramadol is taken every four to six hours. It is recommended not to take more than 400 mg of tramadol a day as this can lead to serious side effects.

General Side Effects

In a double-blind study in the United States of 550 patients, the National Library of Medicine reports that 26 percent of patients developed diarrhea, 24 percent developed nausea and vomiting, 18 percent developed headache and 16 percent developed drowsiness. It also concluded that vomiting (9 percent), itching (8 percent) and sweating (6 percent) are other routine side effects of tramadol. Other common side effects include dry mouth, diarrhea and ingestion (all reported in 5 percent of studied patients). Tramadol can affect the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and cause tremors, anxiety, muscle spasms, hallucinations and emotional changes. These central nervous side effects affected 7 percent of the 550 patients.

Harmful Side Effects

MedlinePlus warns that tramadol can cause hives, trouble breathing, a rash and sores in the mouth, throat, eyes and nose. It can also cause convulsions, a runny nose, nasal congestion, fever and a cough. In some cases, tramadol can cause peripheral edema (swelling of the legs, feet or hands) and swelling of the face, tongue, throat and lips. A person should tell a doctor about these side effects. The doctor may discontinue tramadol and seek a safer drug.

Other Side Effects

According to the National Library of Medicine, tramadol can cause vasodilation (relaxation of the blood vessels). Excessive vasodilation can lead to hypotension (low blood pressure) and even shock (condition in which less than adequate blood flow reaches the organs). It can also cause flatulence (gas), urinary retention, frequent urination and menstrual irregularities. Other side effects include tinnitus (ringing in the ears), cataracts (clouding of the eye lenses), hearing problems, speech problems and skin vesicle formation.

Additional Concerns

A person should avoid tramadol if he has a history of drug abuse and dependence. Tramadol is a narcotic-like medication that can become physically and psychologically addicting. According to the National Library of Medicine, a person may develop cravings to tramadol and even become tolerant of it.

Tramadol should not be taken with alcohol, narcotics, hypnotics, opioids, psychotropic drugs and central acting analgesics. A person should tell his doctor about his medications and she can check whether they interact with tramadol. Combining this medications with tramadol can lead to respiratory depression (breathing cessation) and seizures, says the National Library of Medicine. It can also lead to serotonin-syndrome, a condition characterized by agitation, coma, hallucinations, lack of coordination, tachycardia (fast heartbeat), diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

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