A drug commonly used by allergy sufferers may offer relief to cirrhosis patients who suffer from insomnia. A new study published in The American Journal of Gastroenterology shows that the antihistamine hydroxyzine is an effective treatment for restoring normal sleep patterns when liver damage disrupts chemical pathways in the brain.
âIn patients with cirrhosis of the liver, histamine levels in the brain may be altered,â says study author Dr. Laurent Spahr. “In the brain, histamine regulates the sleep-wake cycle, so if the levels of this chemical are out of balance, so are sleep patterns.” In this study, 65% of patients receiving hydroxyzine before bedtime experienced an improvement in sleep quality.
Dr Spahr says hydroxyzine is a welcome alternative to âclassicâ sleeping pills because they are generally ineffective and can cause serious side effects in patients with cirrhosis, such as coma. Recent practice guidelines prohibit the use of these “classic” drugs for patients with cirrhosis, declaring them too dangerous.
According to Dr. Spahr, however, hydroxyzine is not without risk. âThis drug should be used with caution. Patients should be carefully monitored by a physician for their particular response to the drug, and should be withdrawn from the drug if there are any signs of a problem.
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