What are the side effects of medications?
Discuss any side effects with your doctor
People respond differently to medications. A medication
that works well for you may not work for someone else, and vice versa. Your
doctor can work with you to decrease any negative side effects of the
medications. Side effects of your medications may include things like weight
gain, shaking, getting tired, or movements of your tongue or mouth that you
Be sure to write down any side effects of your medications.
Bring this list with you when you see your doctor. Show your doctor the list
and discuss what you are experiencing with him or her.
How to manage side effects that may be bothering you
side effects may be annoying, but are not serious. Sometimes people think they
should stop their medicine if they get a side effect, but this is not true in
many cases. Always talk to your doctor if you think you are having side effects
with your medicine. More common side effects are listed below, with some
suggestions for how to manage them.
If your vision is blurred, contact
your doctor right away. He may want to adjust your dosage or give you a
If you sit up or stand up too
quickly, you may become
dizzy. To prevent dizziness, rise slowly. If you are lying on your bed, first
put your feet over the edge of the bed, and then sit up slowly. Wait a moment
before standing up. This side effect usually improves as you continue with your
Your pills may make you feel tired. You may want to see how
your medicine changes you before you do any activity that requires you to be
alert. You might want to start your medicine on a day that you are going to be
at home, just to see how you react to it. This side effect usually only last a
short time, so you may not always feel this tired.
If your mouth feels dry, suck on sugar-free, hard or sour
candy. Chewing sugarless gum or sipping water may also help.
You may feel like you have to keep moving and it is hard to
sit still. This can be managed with other medicines. Be sure to tell your
doctor if this side effect is bothering you.
If you think you may be having any sexual problems from your
pills, tell your doctor.
Skin rash may be caused by an allergy you may have to the
medicine. If you get a skin rash, especially a painful one, call your doctor immediately.
Slowed body movements
People who have this side effect may feel tightness in their
muscles, and may walk with short steps and not be able to swing their arms
naturally. They may have a tremor in their hands or walk slowly. If you feel
any of these symptoms, tell your doctor, who may want to adjust your dosage or
change your medicine.
Feeling slowed down
describe this side effect as "feeling like a zombie." If this side
effect happens to you, tell your doctor. Your doctor may want to adjust your
dosage or prescribe another medicine to relieve this side effect.
Some medicines can make you more sensitive to the sun. Wear
clothing and use a sunscreen to protect skin that is not covered even if you
plan to stay in the shade.
You may have the urge to pass urine but may not be
able to. If you have this problem, tell your doctor as soon as possible.
Some people may gain weight after several weeks or months of
treatment. If you start to gain weight, ask your doctor to recommend a
Also, exercise often to
avoid gaining weight. But be sure to talk to your doctor before beginning an
More Serious side effects
The following side effects can be serious, but not many
people get them. It is important to know about them so that you will know what
to do if you have them.
If you have ever had any of these
side effects, be sure to tell your doctor and the other members of your
treatment team. Also keep in mind that your medicine may not cause any of the side effects listed in this
section. Check with your doctor to find out which side effects may occur with
the medicine you are taking.
Low white blood cell count (agranulocytosis)
Agranulocytosis means low white blood cell count. Without
enough white blood cells, your body may not be able to fight infection. Since
this side effect can be dangerous, be sure to report high fevers and painful
sore throats to your doctor as soon as possible.
Involuntary muscle movements
This side effect, known as tardive dyskinesia, usually
occurs after months or years of taking antipsychotic medicine. It is serious
and can cause involuntary movements of the tongue and mouth (for example,
chewing and sucking motions), lip smacking, and sometimes the arms and legs can
be affected. Tell your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms.
Some medicines can cause you to get overheated, especially
in hot weather. Drinking plenty of water can help you avoid getting
Neuroleptic malignant syndrome
This is a rare but very serious side effect. Muscles get
very stiff over one to three days, a high fever develops, and you may feel very
confused. If you start to feel these symptoms, get medical help immediately.
Go to the emergency room if you cannot reach your doctor.
Some medicines make people more prone to having seizures.
If you do have a seizure, get medical help immediately.
Uncontrolled muscle spasms (Dystonia)
This side effect feels like a charley horse or writer's
cramp. It may start with a neck spasm that leads to a stiff neck and stiff
tongue. The eye muscles may be involved, causing the eyes to roll up and
back. If you have this side effect, call your doctor immediately or go to the
emergency room. Your doctor can prescribe another medication to prevent this
reaction from occurring again.
“If I feel this good, I must not need the medications anymore.”
People often think that they can stop taking their
medications because they feel better. It is important to remember that taking
the medications is a big part of what keeps you well. In fact, stopping your
medications often leads to you getting sick again.
Think about how things are at work and home for you when you
are on medication. Now think about how things are when you are not on
medication. When you are taking your medication, you will have fewer problems
at work, get along better with your family and stay out of the hospital
longer. This may be reason enough to stay on the medications.
Sometimes medications are prescribed to control or reduce a
side effect caused by another medication. This is especially true when older
anti-psychotics are being used. Although these medications can provide good
results they all come with some risks. The doctor must sometimes balance the
positive effects of the medication against any possible harm it might cause.
Everyone responds differently to different medicines, so several may be tried
to see which is the most helpful with the fewest side effects.