Did you know that prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can have side effects?
You probably have taken a drug in the last year without reading the side effects, right?
According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, drug side effects are also known as adverse reactions or unwanted or undesirable effects to a drug.
While most drug side effects are minor, some can be quite serious.
In some cases, they can even be life-threatening.
It’s critical to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any side effects you experience.
That way, they can advise you on how to deal with the problem and prevent it from getting worse.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss eight drug side effects you should never ignore.
8 drug side effects you should never ignore
You should never ignore drowsiness.
According to Victoria Stern’s Scientific American article, lightheadedness and disorientation are the two most common side effects of prescription drugs.
If you find yourself feeling tired all the time while taking a certain medication, you should talk to your doctor about it.
Drowsiness can be a sign of a serious side effect, such as excessive tiredness due to a lack of oxygen in the body.
It can happen if a drug reduces blood flow to your brain, resulting in hypoxia (lack of oxygen) or if it causes respiratory depression (hypoventilation).
So, the next time you feel drowsy after taking a drug, don’t ignore it.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about it.
That’s because drowsiness can increase your risk of falling, which can result in injuries and disability, says Laura Carr, a pharmacist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
2. Upset stomach
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are one of the most frequent stomach irritants.
This includes pain medications, such as ibuprofen and other common pain relievers.
They can cause gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining), peptic ulcers, and gastrointestinal bleeding.
In some cases, NSAIDs may also lead to perforation in the stomach or intestines.
If you experience any of the following symptoms while taking an NSAID, don’t ignore them:
- Abdominal pain
- Vomiting or vomiting blood
- Black, tarry stools (stools that look like tar)
- Blood in your urine
If you experience any of these symptoms while taking an NSAID, talk to your doctor immediately.
Also, follow your doctor’s instructions on how to take NSAIDs.
For instance, don’t take more than the recommended dose and don’t drink alcohol while taking them.
You should also take your medication with food.
3. Dry mouth
Dry mouth is a common side effect of medications.
It can also be a sign of dehydration.
According to the Mayo Clinic, dry mouth can be caused by hundreds of medications, including many over-the-counter drugs.
For example, drugs that treat allergies, colds and flu, depression, anxiety, and high blood pressure can all cause dry mouth.
If you experience dry mouth while taking a medication, drink plenty of fluids to help relieve the symptom.
Also, talk to your doctor about the possibility of switching to a different drug.
4. Nausea and vomiting
Many drugs can cause nausea and vomiting, especially antibiotics.
According to the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS), antidepressants, chemotherapy drugs, aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen medicines can also cause side effects such as nausea or vomiting.
If you experience nausea or vomiting while taking a certain medication, talk to your doctor about it.
He/she may be able to prescribe an alternative drug that has the same effect but doesn’t cause these side effects for you.
Also, follow your doctor’s instructions on how much and when to take your medicine in order to prevent nausea and vomiting.
For instance, if you take aspirin to reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke, follow your doctor’s instructions on how much aspirin is right for you.
Don’t take more than what he/she recommended.
5. Blurred vision
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, blurred vision is a common side effect of erectile dysfunction (ED) medication such as sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), and tadalafil (Cialis).
It’s not clear why this side effect occurs, but it may have something to do with the way these drugs work.
If you experience blurred vision after taking an ED medication, don’t ignore it.
Talk to your doctor about it.
They may be able to prescribe another medication that works just as well for you.
Or, they may recommend taking the drug with food instead of on an empty stomach.
Also, avoid driving or operating heavy machinery while taking these medications until you know how your body responds to them.
Headache is probably the most common side effect of drugs.
According to WebMD, some of the most common drugs that cause headaches include blood pressure medications, birth control pills, and hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Did you know that many drugs that treat headaches also cause headaches?
For instance, ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, and acetaminophen (Tylenol) cause headaches as a side effect.
This is known as a “rebound headache.”
If you experience a headache after taking one of these medications, don’t ignore it.
Talk to your doctor about it.
They may be able to prescribe an alternative drug that works just as well for you without causing this side effect
7. Heart palpitations
Heart palpitations are feelings of a rapid, fluttering heartbeat or pounding heart.
They can be a sign that the dose of your medication is too high or that you’re experiencing a drug interaction.
Some drugs that can cause heart palpitations are:
- Antibiotics, such as erythromycin
- Anti-seizure drugs, including phenytoin (Dilantin), valproate (Depakote), and carbamazepine (Tegretol).
- Beta-blockers for high blood pressure or heart problems. These include metoprolol tartrate (Lopressor, Toprol XL), atenolol (Tenormin, Apo-Atenol), and propranolol hydrochloride (Inderal).
- Calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure or heart problems. These include amlodipine besylate (Norvasc), diltiazem (Cardizem, Tiazac), felodipine (Plendil), nifedipine (Procardia, Adalat) verapamil hydrochloride (Calan, Covera-HS).
- Antidepressants. These include amitriptyline/perphenazine (Triavil), doxepin hydrochloride (Sinequan), and imipramine (Tofranil).
Although it can be worrisome to have heart palpitations, they are usually harmless, says Mayo Clinic.
But if you have heart palpitations that are lasting longer than a few minutes, cause chest pain or pressure, begin to feel light-headed or short of breath – call 911 immediately.
Also, be sure to contact a medical professional if you have heart palpitations and recently started a new medication or supplement, as this could be the cause.
Almost everyone has experienced a restless night of sleep or even insomnia at some point.
While these symptoms are often temporary, there is no denying that they can lead to a variety of problems during daytime hours.
But did you know that insomnia can also be a side effect of certain drugs?
According to Darrell Hulisz, RPh, PharmD, U.S. Pharmacist article, antidepressants, diuretics, anticonvulsants, and corticosteroids can all cause insomnia.
So if you are having trouble sleeping and believe it may be related to your medication, talk to your doctor.
They may be able to prescribe an alternative drug that won’t cause this side effect.
Drug side effects are not something that you should ignore.
Some symptoms are minor and will resolve on their own or by altering your dosage.
Others can be life-threatening and require immediate attention.
Keep in mind that every individual is different when it comes to drug reactions.
Do not make changes to your medication without first consulting your doctor.
Keep on reading: Side Effects of Antimalarial Medications