Finding a Perfect Balance Between Drugs Side Effects and Benefits

Everything that goes into your body has an effect on body functions. Put in trans-fat and saturated fat, in five years you’ll see symptoms of coronary artery disease. Put in narcotics and alcohol, you’ll have liver problems. Put in tobacco smoke you should expect COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or even lung cancer. Put in too much calories, you’ll be overweight and have adult-onset diabetes. Many of us don’t seem to recoil much from the hazards of modern lifestyle. You won’t hear people say, “I’m concerned about formaldehyde vapor that may leech from my brand new bed”. But when we take medications, we tend to zero in on possible side effects and may even decide that those drugs are not for us. Each medication has potential side effect, but you should be aware that by not taking medication, you’ll get other side effects too. People who are treated for psoriasis, for example, may be prescribed with acitretin, cyclosporine and methorexate, although these drugs may improve the symptoms, they can also cause end-organ toxicity. This health disorder can increase the risk of malignancies and infections, also possible auto-immune responses. When prescribing drugs, doctors dwell with complex risk vs. benefit issues. Does the associated risk outweigh the sought benefit? They also try to find a way to minimize or at least monitor likely side effects. Acute illness and chronic illness are different; and doctors use different methods for treating them. Doctors have a full control when treating acute illness.

While for chronic illness, the doctor and patient collaborate in deciding about the steps taken. To make an informed decision, patients should do their homework and understand about all alternatives in medication or treatment. Once patients with chronic illness have done all the homework, they should have an honest and direct discussion with the doctor. It is a good idea to come up with a questions list. If you don’t seem to get all the important answers, try to schedule another appointment to have at least fifteen minutes of uninterrupted discussion. This way, the doctor can address your concerns about treatment options available. If the doctor seems to be reluctant to talk with you, you should find another doctor. Obviously, you should understand that doctors are busy and you should respect your doctor’s time. If you ask for almost daily consultations, the doctor may decide to give up on you by referring you to other doctor. You should strike a balance between gathering information versus monopolizing you doctor’s time. In the end, patients are the one who can decide on what goes into their body. A medical decision should be based on enough research, discussion and compromise.

When dealing with side effects, you may easily confuse side effects of the drug to the allergic reactions. Dry mouth, dizziness, headache and nausea are common side effects of drugs. If you feel that the side effects are troubling you more than previously expected, discuss it with your doctor. There could be alternatives that work comparably without causing similar side effects. In general, you get allergic reactions from the drug, if the symptoms appear almost immediately. Allergic symptoms can be mild, severe or sometimes life-threatening. If you take a drug and hives break out, that could be considered as allergic reaction; immediately call 911, don’t wait for it to get worse. After receiving medical attention, you should notify the doctor who gave you the medication. If it happens after the working hours, try to call his mobile phone or if necessary visit his home.

People who have headache often take ibuprofen, Tylenol or aspirin. But in a more severe case, patient needs to get a prescription. The drug will enter you system to relieve symptoms or the cause. If doctors believe that you also have an infection, he may also give you an antibiotic for a number of days to get the highest effectiveness. On many patients, drug can be taken for years or even for life. The drug effectiveness builds up gradually, so unlike other rapid-acting drugs, like headache medication, those slow-acting drugs should be taken regularly for years to obtain the desired effects. For the first few months the effect can be so subtle that it is nearly impossible to notice. Likewise, the symptoms will return slowly if you stop the medication.

When taking these drugs, it is inadvisable to change the dose or stop them altogether without doctor’s supervision, no matter how bad the side effects are. Long-term drugs that potentially have disrupting side-effects are antidepressants, steroids, heart, diabetes and blood pressure medications. Often, the more troubling the side effects are, the more likely patients are willing to gamble by changing the dose or even stopping the medication completely. You may think that you know your body better than the doctor, but this thought can very well mean a disaster.

Some patients are confused with the approach used by their doctors. Their doctors may add or subtract medications; or; increase or decrease dosages. Two patients with similar disease and symptoms who sit on a waiting room, could be surprised to discover that their medications are quite different. The ambiguity can leave patients wondering whether their doctors know what they are doing. Patients may suspect that doctors are playing dice with their health or worse they may think that they are being treated like guinea pigs for an ongoing clinical trial. Doctors don’t have a cookbook of recipes to deal with specific diseases. But with any professional chef, adjustments are constantly necessary to get a perfect combination between risks and benefits.

In reality, no two cases are similar, there are always be differences. Patients have their own unique makeup to the disease and medical record. Additionally, patients that have a chronic health problem may have several overlapping conditions. To make things more complicated, our medical conditions are dynamic and fluctuate over time. For diseases that don’t have a cure, like HIV/AIDS, patients and doctors alike can be saddled with the frustration.

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