What is Selegiline?

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  • Written By: Stephany Seipel
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2019
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Selegiline is a medication that is used to manage the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. It might also help patients who suffer from clinical depression. It increases the dopamine levels in the brain when used in combination with other prescription medications. It has a number of side effects and drug interactions, and in many places, it is available only by prescription.

This medication helps Parkinson's disease sufferers by inhibiting an enzyme in the brain called monoamine oxidase B (MAO B). MAO B is responsible for breaking down dopamine, a chemical that the body needs to control movement. Parkinson's disease damages the neurons that transmit dopamine, so patients with this disease have little or no dopamine in their brains. Selegiline increases the amount of dopamine in the brain by preventing MAO B from breaking it down.

Dopamine also controls the pleasure centers in the brain, so patients who suffer from depression might benefit from selegiline. In 2004, researchers began examining the use of this medication for people who wished to stop smoking. Selegiline might also help slow down DNA damage and reverse memory loss in some patients.


Doctors usually prescribe this drug in combination with levodopa and carbidopa, which are medications that also increase the amount of dopamine in the brain. Selegiline is usually taken by mouth twice a day or applied to the skin as a transdermal patch. Although selegiline helps control the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, there is no cure for this disorder.

Some patients who use this medication might experience stomach upset, vomiting or diarrhea. Other people feel lightheaded or dizzy. Patients sometimes experience strange dreams or have difficulty getting a good night's sleep. Some people become depressed, suffer from heartburn or complain about muscle pain or weakness.

Other individuals experience more dramatic side effects. Some people feel confused or have vivid hallucinations. Headaches, breathing difficulty and chest pain also can occur. Pregnant women and nursing mothers should not use selegiline except under extreme circumstances.

Selegiline can trigger serious allergic reactions in some people. The symptoms of an allergic reaction include swelling around the mouth, tongue or lips, as well as hives and breathing problems. Using selegiline also increases the patient's risk of developing a kind of skin cancer called melanoma.

Patients who use serotonin reuptake inhibitors, fluoxetine hydrochloride, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or tricyclic antidepressants should not use selegiline. Serious or even life-threatening effects can occur from taking these medications in combination with one another. Patients might suffer from severe mental health issues, rigid muscles, hyperthermia, seizures, coma or death.



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