Listen to what your body tells you

  • Follow Glynn Moore

Last week, I reeled off the various side effects that prescription medicines had dealt me over the years, and I asked for your experiences, too.

Sara, a reader from Martinez, put it this way: "I tell people that 'my body does not like drugs.'"

"I have a list of meds that I cannot take, including at least six anti-inflammatory drugs," she wrote in an e-mail.

Although most of her reactions were just bad side effects, she is allergic to codeine and related drugs, which didn't seem to ease her pain anyway.

Even worse, that allergy runs in the women in her family; Sara, 81, said she thought that was unfair to her female relatives.

Reader C.C., in Appling, identified with some of the things I had written, especially the one about a prescription that made me go on a monthlong shopping binge. Hers was worse.

"I know all about the shopping pills," she wrote. A combination of two medicines gave her an expensive habit: "Two phones on redial to Home Shopping (Network) and QVC ... UPS, the mailman and the post office - all fussing. I had lost my mind."

She was eating 6-pound cans of candy ordered off the air and gained 20 pounds from those TV dinners. Cholesterol drugs had the same fatigue effects I described. Muscle relaxants put her into a head fog. The worst - as far as I'm concerned - was her quit-smoking pills. They ruined her desire for chocolate. Still, they made her drop 12 pounds.

One reader had a sage comment: "Even after surgery, the pain meds the doctor prescribes make me so sick. So, to cure the nausea, they gave me nausea meds that added to the nausea."

Some readers told of very serious reactions. An Evans man said that after taking statins, he developed lumps and clots, his legs turned purple and he walked on crutches. He developed rhabdomyolysis, which caused a bad kidney problem, and had to start dialysis.

One reader in Evans, sad to say, lost his wife after she began taking a couple of asthma medications. She developed liver and heart problems, but he is still waiting to find out exactly what happened. His loss makes the rest of our maladies pale.

What these testimonials add up to, I think, is that we are all different, and different medicines affect us all differently.

Some things you can predict, and some you can't.

Over my lifetime, I've taken plenty of prescriptions that did exactly what they were supposed to - and nothing else; other medications have caused side effects that were innocuous or strange or painful.

Medicines certainly help more than they hurt. Statins, for instance, have proved invaluable for millions whose systems accept them, and after one was linked to deaths, it was pulled from the market.

My family physician knows what does and does not work in my body, so he prescribes medicines that work with, not against, one another. I've been fortunate.

As patients, we have to do our part. After finding a good doctor, we must be sure he or she knows our medical history, allergies and any history of side effects.

We should read news stories about health and medicine, talk with friends about these subjects, and listen up when drug commercials sneak in those fast-spoken warnings at the end about the possible consequences of taking each miracle cure.

We should grill our pharmacist if we have questions about a new prescription; when we get home, we should read the literature that came with it.

Are we getting the right dosage? Do we know what time of day or night to take it? Do we take it with or without food? Will it work in combination with whatever else we're using?

If our system does react badly, we have to call the pharmacist or doctor to find out what's going on. We know our bodies better than anyone else does, and we have to take care of them for a while yet.

Reach Glynn Moore at (706) 823-3419 or glynn.moore@augustachronicle.com.

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