Medical jargon can be difficult for young or less-educated patients to understand. Even educated individuals can struggle to comprehend medication leaflets. Patient information leaflets (PILs) are included in medication packages to provide written information about the medication. However, the use of medical terminology in these leaflets can sometimes be unclear or contradictory.
The purpose of patient information leaflets is to provide information about the medication’s administration, precautions, and potential side effects. Research has shown that patients prefer straightforward information about their treatment and are more likely to read leaflets when first prescribed a medication. The risk of side effects can strongly influence a patient’s decision to take the medication.
What is the difference between side effects, and adverse effects?
Side effects and adverse effects are both types of reactions that can occur when taking medications, but they differ in severity, frequency, and predictability.
Side effects are unintended and often mild effects that occur as a result of taking a medication. They are usually expected and may occur in a large number of people taking the medication. Some common side effects of medications include drowsiness, headache, nausea, dizziness, dry mouth, or constipation. These side effects may not be harmful and may go away on their own, but they can cause discomfort and may interfere with daily activities.
The severity and duration of side effects can vary depending on the individual, the dose of the medication, and the duration of treatment. Some side effects may be managed by adjusting the dose or frequency of the medication, while others may require a different medication altogether. In some cases, the benefits of the medication may outweigh the risks associated with the side effects. Patients are advised to report any side effects to their healthcare provider, who can provide guidance on how to manage them.
On the other hand, adverse effects are more serious and potentially harmful effects that occur as a result of taking a medication. They are usually unpredictable and may occur in a smaller number of people. Adverse effects can range from mild to severe and may require medical intervention. Examples of adverse effects include an allergic reaction, liver damage, kidney damage, or a severe rash.
Adverse effects can be life-threatening in some cases, and they require immediate medical attention. The risk of adverse effects may increase with the dose of the medication, the duration of treatment, or with certain underlying medical conditions. Some adverse effects may be detected during clinical trials, but others may only be discovered after the medication has been approved and is being used by a larger population.
Adverse effects can be managed by discontinuing the medication or by adjusting the dose or frequency of the medication. In some cases, alternative medications may be recommended. Patients are advised to report any adverse effects to their healthcare provider immediately, who can provide guidance on how to manage them.
In summary, side effects are unintended but usually mild effects that occur as a result of taking a medication, while adverse effects are more serious and potentially harmful effects that can occur in a smaller number of people. In the U.S., DailyMed provides information about drugs and their effects through the FDA. It offers an online source for patients to check for details of their medications.
What Contraindications Means
A contraindication is a medical term that refers to a specific situation or condition where a particular treatment, medication, or procedure should not be used or carried out. The reason for the contraindication is that the treatment, medication, or procedure could cause harm, exacerbate an existing condition, or interfere with other medications or treatments.
Contraindications are typically identified by medical professionals and are listed in medical references such as drug labels, medical textbooks, and clinical guidelines. It is important to carefully evaluate and consider contraindications when making medical decisions, as failure to do so could lead to serious health consequences.
There are different types of contraindications, including absolute and relative contraindications. An absolute contraindication means that a particular treatment, medication, or procedure should never be used or carried out under any circumstances because the risks of harm are too great. Examples of absolute contraindications include severe allergic reactions to a particular medication, or a medical condition that could be worsened by a certain treatment.
Relative contraindications, on the other hand, are situations where a treatment, medication, or procedure may be used, but with caution and careful consideration of the risks and benefits. For example, a medication may have a relative contraindication if it could interact with another medication the patient is taking or if the patient has a pre-existing medical condition that could be worsened by the medication.
Overall, contraindications are an important consideration in medical decision-making, and medical professionals should carefully evaluate each patient’s unique medical history and circumstances to determine the best course of treatment.