How does neuroleptic malignant syndrome affect those with schizophrenia?

Mark Moronell, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Neuroleptic malignant syndrome can be a serious, and even deadly, disease. About one in three people with the illness will die, although most can be treated and will fully recover. Neuroleptic malignant syndrome is a disease that comes on quickly, within a few weeks after some people begin taking antipsychotic medications. Distressed male patients who take an initially high dose of drugs, or whose dose is increased too quickly, are the most likely to be affected. In total, this disease affects about three percent of patients who take antipsychotic medications. Symptoms of the disorder can include:
  • Fever and sweating
  • Blood pressure and heart rate problems
  • Confusion
  • Rigid muscles and stiffness
  • Myoglobinuria (which can lead to kidney problems)
Patients with schizophrenia are treated with dopamine receptor blocking medications such as haloperidol, thorazine, clozapine, etc.  Treatment with this class of medications makes one prone to Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome (NMS).

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