Side Effects Are Awful And Here’s What To Do
Side effects are mentioned in every other sentence when talking about clinical trials, but it’s a commonly acknowledged truth that every drug – from aspirin to complex new formulas – has side effects. Some side effects are more pronounced than others, but ultimately there is no side-effects-free treatment except for the chamomile tea when we have trouble sleeping.
Some side effects are mild and temporary, others – though life-altering and hazardous – necessary and worth the risk. But some of you reading this now suffer from debilitating side effects from treating a chronic condition and nothing promises that these unwanted changes will eventually go away.
It feels like your treatment is simply replacing one pain with another, managing your symptoms in exchange for limiting your joy of life. If this sounds like you, keep reading.
We at FindMeCure have often pointed out that new drugs in development have many different aims and purposes. Some of them are targeting conditions for which no other treatment is available or substantially effective.
Some show promise to treat a disease better than what’s already on the market – they either are more effective or have less side effects. This is important because it shows that researchers, medical doctors and the pharmaceutical industry are interested in developing treatments that have minimal impact on patients’ quality of life.
Your primary physician too is interested in helping you maintain your lifestyle as much as possible. But in order for them to be of any help, you need to be able to communicate your experiences efficiently. Here’s how to do it.
Be prepared. Most prescription drugs cause minor issues with the digestive system because… well, they pass through it. From nausea to diarrhea or constipation some inevitable discomforts are due, be them as minor as mild stomach ache. Those are yet no reason to be alarmed.
Some drugs, however, may cause side effects that in one way or another alter the way we live our lives.
Drowsiness that interferes with your capability of doing your job or enjoying your time with friends, irritability that causes tension between you and loved ones, lower libido that leads to some uneasiness in your relationship are all side effects to take seriously and report.
You need to know that some side effects go away on their own after your body adjusts to the new treatment but ongoing pain, discomfort and dramatic alterations in the way you live and enjoy your life are not to be silently tolerated.
Take it to your doctor. If you know what to expect and the side effects you experience go beyond your capacity to tolerate some forms of discomfort, talk to your doctor about anything and everything that bothers you.
Some people are reluctant to report intimate details about their lives, hence why a lot of cases of low libido or sexual dysfunction don’t get the attention they deserve. But these can be side effects of medication and they’re certainly not minor ones if your overall happiness is significantly affected.
Sometimes, however, it’s harder to pinpoint which recent changes seem important enough and which of them can be attributed to the new treatment plan you’re adhering to. In this case, journaling can be of huge help not only to you but to your doctor as well.
They as an outside observer can be better at spotting irregularities if you provide them with all the necessary information. So start tracking everything that seems important immediately after beginning a treatment. You will thank yourself you did.
Get all the help you need. Sometimes we’re so reluctant to make the changes we need to feel better that our timidity can actually cost us our health, happiness and peace of mind.
If you did track your experiences on the new treatment and reported some concerning and persistent symptoms but your doctor seems unbothered by them, don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion. What one doctor sees as inevitable or negligible another will try to help with to the best of their knowledge.
You are allowed to seek compassion from your treatment team. And while we’re at it, you’re allowed to seek compassion from everyone around you too – be honest with your loved ones about the hardships you’re going through.
Seek a therapist if you feel the need for some pro tips on how best to handle your situation. Include all sorts of professionals in your treatment team if you feel it will speed up your recovery or help you manage side effects. Don’t be afraid to seek the kind of care and consideration you need.
Be patient. Managing side effects takes time even when you’re working with a team of dedicated professionals that take your concerns seriously and respond accordingly.
Some side effects are a matter of adjustment, they go away after a while, so your doctor might recommend you stick with the plan and give the treatment some time. Other side effects can be managed by lowering the dose of your current medication which can take some trial-and-error too.
Some side effects are caused by an unfavorable reaction with another drug, so the process of finding a ‘better fit’ can also take some time. Some side effects require you to take another drug to deal with them in particular, like an anti-diarrhea drug for example. Some, on the other hand, will ask of you to make certain changes to your diet or lifestyle.
Our point is, it’s a process. It takes time. You need to stay strong and determined. You will find the right treatment, you will learn to manage your side effects, just give it time and remain positive, as hard as it may be at times.
Be ready to make some changes. As we said, some side effects can be managed with minor (or sometimes drastic) changes to your diet or lifestyle.
You might be an avid wine connoisseur but if cutting out alcohol is what it takes for your side effects to go away, you need to be prepared to make that change.
Some medical professionals point out that a lot of factors play a role in side effects, not just the ingredients of the medication itself. Your overall condition has an impact too – how fit you are, how balanced your diet is, how calm or stressful your lifestyle.
You might also want to make peace with the fact that some side effects cannot be completely avoided. For example, if you’ve already tried a number of brands and doses of antidepressants but they all make it easier for you to gain weight, you need to face the reality that all you can do at this point is eat extra healthy and add some (more) exercise to your lifestyle.
Not every side effect can be eliminated by switching medicine, regulating the dose or entering into a clinical trial for a treatment that promises a better outcome. This is why you need to learn to pick your battles, know your priorities and be willing to make adjustments with a greater goal in mind – your recovery.
However, if your life experience is dramatically altered by the drugs you’re taking or if it feels like you’re fixing one problem just to create a new one, seek help. Don’t keep quiet about your pain and worries because by speaking up you’re helping the medical community assess treatments and facilitate advancements.
Some drugs, for example, show great results in clinical trials, only to be given a black box warning or completely withdrawn a few months after being introduced in the general population because of intolerable side effects.
Reporting side effects is one way to help the medical community do its job. If you want to become more involved in the process of medical research and you want to try a new approach to treatment, you should also consider clinical trials as an option.