Making Sense of Your Medication’s Side Effects


Whether you are taking one medication or a number of different medications, you have probably looked at the list of potential side effects and felt very confused. Why? Because these medication side effects are confusing! You can have a medication that lists both diarrhea and constipation as potential side effects or both drowsiness and insomnia. How can people experience both of these at the same time? Well, they don’t, but all of the potential side effects listed are all of the side effects experienced during the clinical trials of the drug. So one person may have suffered the side effect of diarrhea and another might have had constipation. One might have become drowsy while another ended up with insomnia.

The Fear Factor

When reading the list of potential side effects of their medications, many people become concerned and even afraid to take the medications. It is true that some of the side effects are a cause for concern should they occur, but they are generally quite rare, particularly the more serious side effects. For instance, death is possible from certain medications. Penicillin can cause death via an allergic reaction, whereas the diabetes medications Actos and Avandia can cause death due to a sudden heart attack or stroke. The drug Risperdal is known to cause blood clots that can lead to stroke.

Rest Assured

But rest assured, the above serious side effects are rare, occurring in just a small percentage of the people who take these medications. Instead, the side effects you might experience are more likely to be some of the more common ones. For instance, the common medication Benadryl and other diphenhydramines like it can cause drowsiness. Nearly any prescription and over-the-counter medication can cause nausea. The epilepsy medications Tegretol and Carbatrol can cause simple dizziness and a skin rash. And remember that many people experience no side effects at all!

Weighing the Risks and Benefits

Uncomfortable side effects are a common reason why people stop taking their medications or refuse to take them in the first place. While the risk of more serious or highly annoying side effects is present, you have to weigh the potential for side effects to occur against the benefits of taking the medication. If the medication is something that can prevent a life-threatening illness or disorder from affecting you severely, then the risk of mild or common side effects is likely warranted. For instance, putting up with the with potential side effects of the heart medication Accupril, such as dizziness, a dry couch, or headaches, may be preferred to the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke.

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The key is to work with your doctor to choose medications that are right for you. Ask your doctor about potential side effects and what the different options are in terms of medications. You might find you are more comfortable with one medication than with another. If you do experience side effects that you aren’t comfortable with, then consult your doctor to find a suitable replacement. There are ways to avoid or deal with the side effects of your medications. Just don’t avoid the medications that could save your life.

About Cary Byrd

eDrugSearch founder, Cary Byrd, has been called an “e-health innovator” by MarketIntellNow, interviewed by top pharmaceutical industry journalists, invited to Matthew Holt’s Health 2.0 Conference and a Consumer Report's health summit, and highlighted on numerous health blogs.

Making Sense of Your Medication’s Side Effects

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