Are you concerned about taking certain medicine due to the numerous disclaimers present? Here's the worrying truth about drug side effects.

Do you take prescription drugs? Are you aware of the potential drug side effects associated with the medication you take? Most of us are not.

We assume that the medication we take is safe, but the reality every medication has potential side effects. 

If you are presently taking medications and don't know the potential side effects, you can look up your specific medication on the National Library of Medicine's Website.

Read on to learn more about drug side effects, when they can happen, and how to minimize your risk. 

The Reality of Drug Side Effects
Drugs in the U.S. are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Before a new drug is released to market it has been through animal and human research to show that the benefits of the drugs are greater than their side effects or risks.

What we forget, is that every drug, prescription, over the counter (OTC), and recreational has potential side effects and risks.  

The FDA considers side effects, either minor or life-threatening, as an adverse event. They also track the frequency and severity of the effects of all approved medications.

If you experience side effects from a medication, especially one that has recently made it to market, you should report it to the FDA

How to Report Side Effects To the FDA
Reporting to the FDA is voluntary for consumers and is handled through MedWatch Reporting.

This reporting is user-friendly and requires completion of an online form. You can also call MedWatch's toll-free line to ask questions (1-800-332-1088).

Drug side effect reporting is important for your health, should something negative happen in the future and for the overall health of the population.

Risk of Developing Side Effects
Just as every drug has side effects, every human responds to drugs differently.

The three groups of factors that increase your susceptibility to drug side effects are patient-related, drug-related, and environmentally or socially related.

You are most likely to notice the side effects of your medication when:

You start a new drug
You add a new supplement to your diet while already on medication
You stop taking a drug you have been on for a while
You increase or decrease the prescribed dose.
Being aware of this will help you to lower your risks of side effects.

Patient-Related Risk Factors
Several other factors also play a significant role in the likelihood of side effects.

Some examples include:

As we learn more about the human genome, we understand that all our bodies metabolize and work slightly differently. If you have side effects, but a relative on the same medication does not, it may be related to slight variations in your genetic code.

Kidney & Liver Function
Many drugs are processed in the liver and the inactive ingredients in medications are excreted through the kidneys. Individuals with medical conditions that affect the function of those organs are at greater risk of side effects. 

There are two main reasons women are more prone to drug side effects than their male counterparts. 

First, most drugs are tested on men. The second reason is body size, muscle mass, and enzyme volume. Men tend to be bigger than women.

Children and the elderly are at higher risks of having drug side effects.

Children are not small adults often there body has not developed enough to process the drugs as effectively as an adult. This leads to toxicity and drug reactions.

The elderly are commonly on multiple medications which leads to drug interaction side effects. As we age our body slows down in its ability to metabolize drugs, increasing the risk of side effects.

Drug-Related Risk Factors

These include:
The dose of the drug- lower doses typically mean fewer side effects
The formulation being used (pill, inhaled, topically)
How the drug is absorbed, metabolized, distributed, and eliminated
Drug-drug interactions
Drug-supplement interactions

This is why it is important to talk to your healthcare provider and pharmacist about all the medication you are taking.

Environmentally or Socially Related Risk Factors 

These include:
Alcohol intake
Diet - vitamins in some food interact negatively with prescription medication
Over or under medication

Sometimes over or under medication is the result of not understanding how to take the medication. If you are unclear about how to take your medication, ask.

5 Common Drug Side Effects
Drug side effects can range from a small annoyance to a life-threatening condition. The side effects below are common but by no means inclusive of all the side effects that can be experienced.

Allergic Reactions
Allergic reactions can occur with any medication. The least severe side effect is itching or a mild rash. The most severe side effect is an anaphylactic reaction.

Symptoms of anaphylactic response include facial and throat swelling, difficulty breathing and a widespread rash. This is a serious medical condition that requires prompt attention.

While you may think this side effect is just a little uncomfortable, it can lead to long term problems if it is not treated. This is common in some prescription medications but also in over the counter antacids and iron supplements. 

This is common in patients using ACE inhibitors. These medications cause a dry, hacking, chronic cough.

Diarrhea is also a fairly common side effect. Diarrhea can occur when you take antibiotics, antidepressants, magnesium-containing antacids, ass well as with other medications.

Drowsiness or Sedation
Antihistamines are a common culprit of drowsiness. While this might be ok if you are sick because your body needs to rest, it may not be good if it is a medication you take daily. Drowsiness is also a common side effect of anti-depressants, muscle relaxants, and narcotics. 

Reducing Your Risk
The goal is to know the potential drug side effects and avoid them. 

Discuss potential side effects with your health care professional when a new medication is prescribed.

Talk to the pharmacist about patient prescribing information and read any information they provide.

Read the bottle to ensure you know how to take the medication, with food, without food, etc. Also, be sure to follow the amount you should take and when you should take it. If you struggle to remember, set an alarm on your phone as a reminder.

While all drugs have side effects, drugs also help us to treat disease and live better lives. If you are knowledgeable about the potential side effects of your medication, how your medication is prescribed, and communicate questions to your health care team you can lower your risk of drug side effects. 

What Do You Need to Know?
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