May 28, 2007 A common medication used by allergy sufferers may offer relief to cirrhosis patients that suffer from insomnia. A new study in The American Journal of Gastroenterology shows that the antihistamine hydroxyzine is an effective treatment for restoring normal sleep patterns when liver damage causes chemical pathways in the brain to be disrupted.
“In patients with cirrhosis of the liver, histamine levels in the brain can be altered,” says study author Dr. Laurent Spahr. “In the brain, histamine regulates the sleep-wake cycle, so if levels of this chemical get out of balance, so do sleep patterns.” In this study, 65 percent of the patients receiving hydroxyzine before bedtime experienced improved sleep quality.
Dr. Spahr says that hydroxyzine is a welcome alternative to ‘classical’ sleeping pills, as they are usually ineffective and can lead to serious side effects in cirrhosis patients, such as coma. Recent practice guidelines forbid the use of these ‘classical’ drugs for cirrhosis patients, declaring them too dangerous.
According to Dr. Spahr, however, hydroxyzine is not risk-free. “This medication must be used with caution. Patients must be monitored carefully by a physician for their particular response to the drug, and should be taken off the medication if there are any signs of trouble.”
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