There are risks and side effects with most things in life. These risks become even more serious when we begin discussing medical procedures. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a generally well-tolerated therapy with very few side effects. In fact, when compared to the traditional medications people get prescribed for mental disorders, TMS has far fewer side effects and risks.
The most common side effect patients who have undergone TMS therapy for depression report are mild headaches. These usually subside within a few hours. Doctors recommend over the counter pain medication to treat it. Most people gradually get fewer headaches over the course of the treatment.
Scalp discomfort is another common side effect. Patients may feel tingling on the scalp or get small facial twitches as a result of the TMS pulses. Like the headaches, these symptoms usually diminish as the treatment course goes on. The coil placement and stimulation settings can always be adjusted and reevaluated to reduce discomfort if necessary.
Due to the loud noises that the TMS machine produces during the treatment, patients are given earplugs to wear. Even with earplugs, some people report some hearing problems immediately following the treatment. The side effect isn’t permanent if earplugs are worn.
By far the most serious risk of TMS is seizures. The chance of having a seizure as a result of TMS therapy is extremely low. In fact, the chances of getting a seizure from TMS are much less than most commonly used medications. In very rare instances, some patients have reported mania after TMS procedures. This is particularly relevant to people with bipolar disorder. Any jump in mood to the level of mania should be reported to the doctor and monitored.
Before any TMS procedure, patients are asked to remove all metal or magnetic sensitive objects. This is extremely important. Failing to remove or disclose the presence of such items like cochlear implants, implanted electrodes, aneurysm clips or coils, stents, or bullet fragments could result in serious injury or death.
As safe as TMS is, it is vital that people know it is a relatively new procedure. There haven’t been any studies yet exploring possible long-term side effects from TMS therapy. This is why right now doctors and psychiatrists only recommend it for people with treatment-resistant mental disorders.
TMS therapy is not associated with any of the common side effects that traditional antidepressant medications have. Side effects like sexual dysfunction, weight gain, insomnia, gastrointestinal discomfort, daytime sleepiness, and dry mouth aren’t anything to worry about with TMS. Unlike other brain stimulation treatments like ECT, there is no risk of memory loss or concentration.
TMS is an extremely safe procedure that can provide much-needed help to those that have treatment-resistant mental disorders. When traditional medication fails, TMS steps in. If you are interested in learning more about TMS therapy or think you may be an ideal candidate, please contact us today!