Prescribed medication Heal us when we are sick, ease our pain when we ache, and prevent or control long-term conditions. But sometimes, even when they do the job they’re supposed to do, they have unwelcome side effects.
Don’t let this make you automatically rule out medication, especially if it’s an important part of managing a health condition. But you shouldn’t accept unpleasant feedback without question, either.
Know what to expect
Side effects can happen with almost any medication, says Jim Owen, MD, vice president of practice and scientific affairs for the American Pharmacists Association. They’re common in everything from birth control pills to chemotherapy drugs to fight cancer.
Many prescription medications, for example, cause stomach problems such as nausea, diarrhea, or constipation because they pass through the digestive tract.
Others – like AntidepressantsMuscle relaxants, blood pressure or diabetes medications – May cause dizziness. Some may make you sleepy, depressed, or irritable. Some may cause weight gain. Some may disrupt your sleep or your ability (or desire) to have sex.
“I tell my patients that chronic symptoms are unacceptable,” says Lisa Liu, MD, a family physician at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park, Illinois. “I will not allow them to continue to be in pain or discomfort unless we try all the alternatives.”
asking for help
When your doctor prescribes a new medication, ask about common side effects.
“You, your doctor, and your pharmacist need to work together so everyone has the same information,” Owen says. “You should know which side effects are serious, which ones will go away on their own, and which ones are preventable.”
Once you start taking the medication, mention any unexpected symptoms to your doctor or pharmacist as soon as possible. Liu says this includes changes in your sex life, which many patients feel embarrassed or afraid to talk about.
Some side effects go away over time as your body gets used to a new medication, so your doctor may recommend that you stick to your current plan for a little longer. In other cases, you may be able to lower your dose, try a different medication, or add another medication, such as an anti-nausea medication, to your routine.
“People often think that just because they have a bad reaction to one drug, they can’t take any other drugs in the same class, but that’s not always the case,” says Liu. “Sometimes the side effects are due to very specific ingredients that not every brand uses.”
Changing the time of day that you take your medication may also help, if your doctor gives you the OK. “If one of them is four blood pressure medicationsFor example, I tell them not to take it all at once,” says Leo. For patients whose birth control pills or antidepressants make them dizzy, I have them take them right before bed. “
Make a list of all your medications
When you talk to your doctor, get a list of all your other medications or medications supplements you are taking – either with a prescription or without a prescription. Sometimes, side effects are caused by two or more drugs interacting negatively with each other, Owen says, and you may not need both.
Keep in mind that the new symptoms may actually be a side effect of the medication. If you don’t tell your doctor the full story, they may diagnose you with another condition entirely — and prescribe another medication to treat it.
Ask about lifestyle changes
“There are a lot of factors that go into side effects — not just the medication itself,” says Owen. “You may be able to prevent them by avoiding alcohol or certain foods, or by making other small changes to your diet or lifestyle.”
For example, if you’re taking an antidepressant that helps you feel better but also causes you to gain weight, you may have to pay more attention to your nutrition and exercise plan.
Some medicines like Cholesterol medications And the blood thinnersIt may not work as well if you eat grapefruit or foods rich in vitamin K.
Get your doctor’s approval
It is smart to do your own research about your medication. Read the label and all instructions that come with your prescription. Talk to other people who have similar health concerns. And look for reliable sources on the Internet.
If you read or hear about another medicine that may have fewer side effects, ask your doctor or pharmacist about it. The side effects of newer medications may not be as well known as those that have been on the market for years, so you may ask about switching to an older, more effective medication.
But never stop taking your medication or change your dose without your doctor’s approval — especially if you’re being treated for a serious health condition. You need to take certain medications, such as antibiotics, for a full course to avoid getting sick again. Others do not work as well if you skip a dose, cut it in half, or take it with or without food.
Decide what is most important
You may be able to tolerate some of the side effects, especially if they are temporary or if the positives outweigh the negatives. But if a bad drug reaction puts you at risk for more medical problems or seriously affects your health, it may be time for a change.
Medications that cause dizziness, for example, can increase your risk of death or serious injury from a fall — especially if you’re an elderly person. And treatments that affect your ability to enjoy time with friends or romantic partners may not be your best option if alternatives are available.
“Sometimes it takes a little trial and error, but often times you can find a drug that works without affecting your quality of life,” says Liu.
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