Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive strategy that helps depressed people. With the electromagnetic pulses of TMS, depression’s symptoms are relieved. People with depression can finally retain their ability to feel good again. Because of this, TMS is an excellent treatment method for those who are unsatisfied with antidepressants. Many people see bad side effects with their medication, which leads to them finding their medications to be risky. TMS is less harmful because it’s non-invasive and doesn’t use chemicals. But is it safe? Let’s find out in the article below.
One good reason to trust TMS is because of its FDA approval, which cleared the treatment method as a safe way to help those with depression. The fact that it’s non-invasive also helps, too, particularly since it’s also proven to be effective in relieving people of depressive symptoms.
It may also be helpful to know that many people already tried TMS. Many who experience anxiety, stroke, autism, and anorexia have found TMS a useful tool. They will vouch for its effectivity in relieving emotional pain and turmoil, helping treat anorexia, and more.
No Long-Term Side Effects
It’s also easy to file TMS under the Safe Folder because of the absence of long-term side effects. Other treatments pose a lot of threats, but not TMS. You won’t experience digestive problems or any sleep disruption after treatment. The majority of patients only feel a moderate, albeit temporary discomfort. These side effects go away after the first week.
There have been no reports of people experiencing unsightly side effects from TMS. This doesn’t mean, though, that TMS is for everyone. You should still be careful. Anything that you do to your body may have hidden risks. Talk to your doctor first before deciding whether this is for you.
It’s also reported that TMS will not make you feel the side effects from chemical medication. With TMS, you won’t feel abnormal ejaculation, impotence, constipation or diarrhea. These symptoms normally occur in other types of treatment. Not with the reports found for TMS.
There’s a lot of studies done already on TMS. All of them show considerable promise. All of them also prove how much there is to know about the treatment. What’s certain for now is that the clinical trials done showed modest results. This means that you can’t expect TMS to be the first option in treating depression. Always contact your doctor first before deciding on this method. You may end up doing more harm to your body by undergoing a treatment you can avoid, no matter its safety record. It’s more rational to decide first whether a healthy diet and exercise can help you.
It is also safe to say that under controlled conditions, TMS is safe to use. But, it’s important for patients to understand that TMS should be used when nothing else works. It’s also important to take in as much information about any depression treatment before making a decision. This time invested can help you decide if TMS is right for you.
With that, the answer to the main question is: yes, TMS is safe, but under supervision with a doctor. There’s still more research to be done about TMS. The best thing to do is to be updated with these studies. Decide based on what is less risky for you. Decide also under the guidance of a health professional.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 350 million people or about 5% of the of the world’s population suffer from depression. The main treatments for patients suffering from this disorder are medicinal antidepressants and psychotherapy. Unfortunately, at least 50% of patients don’t respond positively to conventional treatment.
If these don’t provide any relief, it might be the right time to consider alternative forms of treatment. These alternate treatment methods involve therapy through brain stimulation. To date, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved two types of brain stimulation: TMS and ECT.
Both treatments involve specific areas in the brain which control mood behavior. The two offer hope to people who failed to succeed in antidepressant medication or psychotherapy. But their similarities end there. To better understand their differences, here are descriptions about the two.
Definition of TMS and ECT
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS is a non-invasive method of stimulating brain nerve cells. This technique uses a coil that emits high-intensity magnetic pulses. Research has found that TMS can effectively treat medication-resistant depression. The response rates are 40% to 60% higher with remission rates of only 35% to 40%. The average treatment last between 4 and 6 weeks.
Electroconvulsive therapy or ECT is also referred to as shock therapy. It involves sending an electric current into patients via attached electrodes. Health care professionals send out an intentional series of “generalized seizures”.
Doctors may recommend ECT for severe depression and suicidal patients. The procedure involves delivering intense but brief electrical pulses through the patient’s head.
Getting the Procedure
Usually, TMS therapy is done in an outpatient setting inside a doctor’s office. It is a simple procedure that does not require any sedation or anesthesia. Patients are fully awake and able to resume their daily routine as soon as the session ends.
Where TMS is a simple procedure, ECT is a bit more complicated. ECT treatment requires series of generalized seizures. Because patients are exposed to pain, they are given muscle relaxant and generalized anesthesia. Patients are also induced into deep sleep during their therapy sessions.
Patients have reported very little side effects while undergoing TMS therapy. The most common side effects of TMS include:
- Scalp soreness at the site of stimulation
- Spasms or twitching of facial muscles
The patient can immediately go back to their daily routine like driving and work upon session completion. There are no memory losses reported with TMS therapy.
Unfortunately, ECT has more reported side effects. These may require observation before a health care professional can clear a patient for discharge. These side effects include:
- Muscle aches
- Confusion following therapy
- Pain in the jaw
- Muscle soreness
- Memory loss
Patients often describe their short term memory loss as not remembering past events from previous months. Some reported to forget what they even ate that morning. This memory loss tends to dissipate over time.
Although ECT has been around longer, experts have found a safer and more effective depression treatment in TMS therapy. In any case, it is best to consult your physician on what will best work for your condition.
Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or rTMS is a relatively new therapy method. Its side effects are relatively unexplored as are the treatment’s safe boundaries. However, it has already been determined that tissue damage is unlikely to occur, but the therapy can have some adverse side effects. Further studies in rTMS and TMS therapy need to be conducted to understand its long term effects.
Alternate Depression Therapy
As an alternative therapy for depression, rTMS has its own benefits. These include:
- It is an FDA approved the non-invasive therapy for treating depression
- It’s a simple procedure that doesn’t require sedation or anesthesia
- TMS is a proven and effective therapy for patients who don’t respond to antidepressant medications
- As a non-invasive method, TMS does not induce weight gain, nausea, dry mouth or sexual dysfunction
- According to several studies, TMS showed positive results compared to antidepressant medications
- Fewer hospitalizations and doctor visits compared to antidepressants medications
- It’s the only proven treatment for patients who have failed on previous antidepressant treatments
- Patients have a 50% more chance of recovering from depression even if they respond poorly from other conventional therapy
The Side Effects of TMS
Since TMS machines functions like an MRI, it can cause damage to metal and other magnet-sensitive materials. TMS is not advisable for patients who have metallic implants in their bodies.
Examples of these metallic materials include:
- Hearing implants
- Aneurysm coils or clips
- Neck stents
- Bullet fragments
- Implanted stimulators or electrodes
Failure to inform doctors of such implants or conditions could result in serious injury or death.
It is mandatory for doctors to take cautionary measures before undertaking TMS treatment. They need to screen patients for these conditions:
- Any removable or wearable devices that might be sensitive to magnetic fields
- Metallic implants
- Electrodes used to monitor brain activity
- Deep brain stimulators
- Stents in the neck or brain
- Other metal devices or object implanted in the body particularly in the near the head
The side effects of TMS are mainly the discomfort of the scalp. Other common side effects of TMS include:
- Neck Pain
Other Known Effects of TMS
Prescription drugs can impede the efficacy of TMS. Patients taking any medication should inform their doctors. Known effects of drugs when undergoing TMS include:
- Tinnitus or ringing in the ears for patients taking bupropion (Wellbutrin)
- Antipsychotic medications and tricyclic antidepressants increase the risk of seizures
TMS as an Alternative Antidepressant Therapy
TMS therapy is proven to be safe and effective alternate treatment option for patients suffering from depression. Even patients who failed on their previous antidepressant treatments can still recover from depression using TMS therapy.
Even the FDA has approved this new method in stimulating the brain as a non-invasive treatment for depression. The therapy can still produce minor scalp discomfort or headaches at the treatment area. Still, TMS therapy hasn’t shown to generate other major health problems. The discomfort is a temporary issue ranging from mild to moderate and usually only lasts during the first week of treatment. Still, some patients report that it disappears after the first week.
Depression is a treatable mental disorder. Unfortunately, not everyone can benefit from traditional treatment methods. TMS therapy can help people recover from depression when other medications and therapies have failed.
This new therapy has showed positive results for patients suffering from ailments such as major depression, anxiety, migraines, autism and more. This has led many to ask about the long terms effects of TMS.
In 2008, the FDA approved Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), a non-invasive method for stimulating brain activity and the regions of the brain associated with depression. The use of magnets and coils has proven to be a safe technique better than any other available treatments.
Lasting Effects of TMS Therapy
According to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, two-thirds of 120 patients who tried TMS therapy didn’t experience episodes of relapse during the year following treatment. The study concluded that TMS therapy can treat depression when all other paths of antidepressants and therapies haven’t worked.
Treatment can cost a lot lasting several weeks for a complete session, but worth it. TMS therapy is still cost-effective given how depression impacts the lives of the patients. It offers longer lasting benefits with almost no side effects and doesn’t require a host of potentially toxic medications.
TMS is considered to be a safe and relatively painless procedure. That being said, it can cause some discomfort associated with its side effects.
Common Side Effects of TMS
Side effects consist mainly of mild to moderate pain at the site of the stimulation. But will improve and decrease over time after the patient’s session. This may include the following:
- Scalp discomfort at the site of stimulation
- Tingling, spasms or twitching of facial muscles
- Neck pain
- Seizure and syncope
- Ringing in the ears
Uncommon Effects of TMS therapy
Serious side effects in TMS therapy are rare. If they do occur, symptoms may include:
- Mania for people with bipolar disorder
- Hearing loss if there is not enough ear protection during therapy
Before anyone can undergo TMS therapy, doctors need to assess the physical well-being of the patient. TMS machines operate like MRI and have some issues with metallic materials as the treatment can displace or heat objects. Also, electric pulses from the TMS machine may disturb electronic circuitry in some implants. Other problematic objects and patient histories include:
- Metallic pieces near the head
- Pacemakers and other implantable medical devices
- History of seizures or epilepsy
- Any medications like neuroleptic agents
- Patients who are pregnant
- People with suffered from serious head injury
- Any history of substance abuse in the past
- Patients with brain surgery or any medical conditions associated with epilepsy
But there are certain things that the medical provider can do to lower risk, including:
- TMS therapy should only be done under the supervision of a trained and licensed physician
- A medical practitioner should be ready to carry out proper attention in the event of seizure
- Therapy should be done in a medical setting with appropriate emergency facilities
Currently, more study is needed to understand the long-term side effects of TMS therapy. But one thing remains constant based on recent studies; TMS therapy can efficiently treat depression in the long run.