Talk to your doctor first. The benefits of the drug may far outweigh any side effects.
Unpleasant or harmful reactions to medications are common and can range from mild—a little nausea, for example—to severe, such as fainting or palpitations. Such reactions cause some people to abruptly stop taking the medication without telling their doctor. This can make them feel better, but it may also create a problem—for example, seriously elevated blood pressure or heart rate.
“It’s generally wise to talk to your doctor before stopping any medication. Stopping it may put you at risk,” says Dr. Tejal Gandhi, an expert on drug safety with Partners Healthcare of Boston and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Research on adverse drug events has found that doctors often don’t ask about symptoms related to a new medication they prescribe, and people who experience medication-related symptoms don’t always volunteer the information.
You don’t have control over the questions your doctor asks, but you can advocate for yourself by speaking up.
“It’s very important to tell your doctor about any unpleasant side effects you may have,” says Dr. Gandhi.
When you have an adverse reaction, your doctor may or may not discontinue the medication. If you need to stay on this particular drug, and there is no alternative, your doctor may be able to tell you how to minimize your symptoms.
You may learn that the symptoms you are experiencing are unrelated to the medication. You’ll never know unless you make that phone call.
“The bottom line is that you should know the potential side effects of a medication and let your doctor know if you experience them,” says Dr. Gandhi.
Questions to ask your doctor