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Is TMS Therapy Safe?

Is TMS Therapy Safe?

Published: May 12, 2022

TMS is a safe, effective, FDA-cleared treatment for major depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It is a painless, non-invasive procedure with few side effects.

What Is TMS?

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy is an innovative treatment that uses gentle magnetic waves to stimulate areas of brain cells, leading to pronounced changes in mood and behavior. It is a relatively painless, non-invasive treatment with few side effects.

Cleared by the FDA for treatment-resistant depression in 2008, TMS is an effective treatment for mood and behavioral disorders, including bipolar disorder, OCD, and addiction.

Can TMS Damage Your Brain?

No, TMS therapy cannot damage your brain. TMS is an FDA-cleared, safe, non-invasive treatment. The most common side effects are a temporary mild headache or scalp discomfort.

What Are the Dangers of TMS Therapy?

For most people, TMS is a safe therapy. While it comes with a small risk of seizures, this risk is comparable to other treatments, including antidepressant medications.

However, some groups of people for which TMS therapy may carry increased risks. These are:

  • If you have any medical devices or implants in your brains, such as cochlear implants or medication pumps. The magnetic pulses from the TMS helmet may cause these devices to malfunction
  • If you have implanted brain electrodes
  • If you have a personal history of epilepsy
  • If you have a vascular, traumatic, tumoral, infectious, or metabolic lesion of the brain
  • If you are taking medicines that lower your seizure threshold
  • If you are sleep deprived
  • If you live with an alcohol addiction

If you are pregnant, you should speak with your doctor or mental health provider before trying TMS.

Can TMS Change Your Personality?

TMS cannot fundamentally change your personality, either temporarily or permanently.

By alleviating symptoms of major depression and other mental health concerns, TMS may lead to significant changes in mood and behavior. However, rather than changing your personality, TMS helps you reconnect with your inner-self, rediscover your passions, and express yourself to the full.

Can TMS Affect Your Eyesight?

TMS treatments for mood and behavioral disorders do not affect your eyesight.

Some researchers have investigated the effects of TMS when applied over frontal eye fields and other brain areas associated with a vision to find out more about the way our sight and other senses work. Applying TMS can affect certain visual phenomena, including binocular rivalry (where vision alternates between two different images present in each eye).

However, TMS is applied to the prefrontal cortex (PFC) during mental wellness treatments, a brain region involved in planning complex cognitive behavior, expression, decision making, and behavior. Applying TMS to this area does not affect your vision.

Related: TMS Therapy for Borderline

Is TMS Therapy Safe While Pregnant?

As many as 1 in 7 women may develop depression during pregnancy. Accessing effective treatment is essential for both the mother and the baby. If untreated, antenatal depression can seriously affect a mother's well-being and lead to developmental difficulties for their child.

While some women may choose to take antidepressants while pregnant, they were doing so comes with certain risks. It may increase the child's risk of specific congenital disabilities or cause them to experience withdrawal symptoms when they are firstborn.

Early clinical trials show TMS as a safe and effective treatment for pregnant women without these additional dangers. A study in 2014 found that rTMS was well-tolerated and produced a clinically meaningful response in pregnant women with treatment-resistant depression. There were no adverse effects from the treatment.

Research is still limited, and the safety and efficacy of TMS for pregnant women need to be studied with multi-center trials and long-term studies. However, as an FDA-approved therapy for major depressive disorder, TMS is currently available for pregnant women as a treatment option.

Why Is TMS Controversial?

As a safe, effective, and FDA-cleared treatment, there is no reason for TMS to be controversial.

Some people may associate TMS with other, higher-risk brain stimulation therapies. Different types of brain stimulation therapies include:

  • electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
  • vagus nerve stimulation
  • deep brain stimulation

Unlike vagus nerve stimulation and ECT, which involve placing implants in the brain, TMS is a non-invasive treatment. No surgery is required for the procedure, and the scalp is not pierced.

Unlike ECT, which deliberately causes seizures in clients, the most common side effects of TMS are mild headaches and scalp discomfort, and the risk of stroke is low (comparable to or lower than other depression treatments).

Are There Any Side-Effects of TMS?

TMS has few side effects. Common side effects of TMS therapy are:

  • mild headache
  • scalp discomfort
  • twitching of facial muscles
  • lightheadedness

These side effects are temporary and tend to decrease throughout treatment. Your physician may be able to reduce discomfort by adjusting the position and intensity of the magnetic coil.

TMS therapy doesn't come with any of the long-lasting, systematic side effects that antidepressants carry, such as weight gain and sexual dysfunction.

What Happens During A TMS Session?

Your first TMS session will last around an hour. In the "mapping session," your physician needs to locate the target area of brain cells. They will move the magnetic coil around your head, sending out single magnetic pulses until they notice a twitch in your right hand, signifying that they have located in the motor cortex.

Once they have located the motor cortex, they can find the precise location of the target cells and determine your motor threshold - the minimum intensity of wave required to induce a motor response in your hand.

When these measurements have been made, treatment can commence. TMS treatment sessions usually last 20-40 minutes. You will stay conscious throughout the treatment and can communicate with the physician. You may experience a tapping sensation under the coil and hear a clicking sound.

At the end of the session, you are free to leave as soon as you like and can drive immediately after treatment.

What Is the Success Rate of TMS?

Research has shown that TMS is a highly effective treatment for depression, with success rates of over 50%. 1/3 of clients achieved complete remission, meaning their symptoms went away entirely.

Other studies have shown that TMS has high success rates for other mental health conditions. 84% of clients with general anxiety disorder noticed an improvement in their symptoms, and others saw a reduction in cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and gambling behaviors.

Read more: TMS for postpartum depression

TMS Treatment at GIA

At GIA Miami, our mission is to compassionately apply scientific advancements through our treatment programs, optimize mental wellness approaches, and offer our clients the very best services.

Our expert team contains world leaders in TMS science, with our founder, Dr. Bonci, co-authoring several groundbreaking papers. As our client, you can benefit directly from our team's exceptional expertise in our individualized treatment programs.

At GIA Miami, we appreciate that many clients lead busy lives and aim to make treatment as accessible as possible. Our center is conveniently located in downtown Miami with a large car park so you can drive to and from sessions. The facility is open, modern, and relaxing - the perfect place to recover.

If you live with depression or another mental health concern, contact us today. Our expert team can further explain how TMS works and whether it might be for you. Pick up the phone today.

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