Monitoring the effects of medicinal treatment  

You should be aware of whether you can notice the effects of your medicine yourself, or whether the efficacy of the medicine must be monitored with laboratory tests, for example. It is also good to find out how soon the effect of the medicine should begin. You should know about every medicine you use why you use it and what the purpose of your medicinal treatment is. You can ask about these matters and discuss them with your doctor. 

During medication, you should monitor whether the medicine has the desired effect and whether there are any adverse reactions. Read more!

Can my medicine cause adverse reactions?

All medicines can cause adverse reactions. An adverse reaction means a harmful and other than intended effect caused by the medicine. 

In addition to efficacy, you should also monitor the occurrence of possible adverse reactions. Adverse reactions may be related to the initial phase of the medication and only temporary. Some adverse reactions, however, do not occur until the treatment has continued for a longer time. Some medicines have harmless adverse effects that may scare you if you are not aware of them. These include your urine or faeces becoming red in colour. Some adverse reactions require the medication to be stopped completely. Indeed, you should find out what adverse reactions your medication may cause, which of them are only temporary, and whether the medicine has adverse reactions that, should they occur, require you to stop taking the medication or contact your physician. 

What kinds of adverse reactions can occur?

The types of adverse reactions vary among medicine groups. The most common adverse reactions caused by medicines are stomach or intestinal symptoms originating from the gastrointestinal tract, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pains, or constipation. Skin reactions are also common adverse reactions. Somewhat often occurring adverse reactions include symptoms originating from the nervous system, such as tiredness, headache, and dizziness. 

Adverse reactions can be mild enough for the user to continue the medication. Adverse reactions are often at their worst in the beginning of the treatment but become milder in a couple of days and may even disappear altogether as treatment continues. 

Adverse reactions that occur in the beginning of a treatment may be caused by the system not yet being accustomed to the medicine. Headache and nausea, for example, are general, mild and, as the treatment continues, transient adverse reactions when beginning the use of birth control pills and antidepressants, among others. 

What causes adverse reactions?

It is not always easy to tell whether a symptom is caused by the illness being treated or whether it is an adverse reaction to the medicine. 

An adverse reaction may most commonly be caused by a medicine’s mode of action. Antibiotics, for example, kill both the bacteria that cause the illness and the body’s own useful bacteria, such as intestinal bacteria. Diarrhoea may be caused by the elimination of the patient’s own intestinal bacteria. 

Sometimes, an adverse reaction may be caused by a medicine having a too strong effect. A beta blocker intended to moderate heart rate, for example, can lower heart rate too much. Some medicines have an effect on the body via the autonomic nervous system, in which case dryness of the mouth and eyes, slow heart rate, constipation, or blurriness of near vision, etc., may occur in addition to the therapeutic effect. 

Some adverse reactions may be caused by a medicine having an effect in an undesired place, such as constipation caused by an adverse reaction to strong painkillers. 

Adverse reactions may also occur when a medicine is used for too long. The use of nasal sprays that contract the mucous membranes of the nose on adults and over ten-year-olds for longer than ten days, and longer than five days on children between two and ten years of age, may damage the mucous membranes or maintain the congestion of the nose (for example, xylometazoline). You can also be allergic to the medicinal substance or an excipient of the medicine. 

How can I avoid adverse reactions?

When you are prescribed a new medicine, let the doctor or nurse know all of your possible allergies to medicinal substances and your other medications. If an adverse reaction is caused by a medicine’s too strong effect, reduction of the dose in consultation with the doctor may reduce the problems caused by the medication. 

Also tell pharmaceutical personnel in the pharmacy about your other medications and your possible allergies to medicinal substances when buying over-the-counter medicines. 

Before starting to take a medicine, ensure that you know how to use your medicine correctly. 

What do I do if adverse reactions occur?

Find out whether the symptoms are related to the medication and whether they will possibly disappear as the treatment continues. You can check the possible adverse reactions caused by the medicine, for example, from the package leaflet or by calling the pharmacy. Find out whether you can do something about the adverse reaction. The use of lactic acid bacteria, for example, may help soothe your stomach when a course of antibiotics has caused a slight diarrhoea. 

The acceptability of the adverse reactions caused by a medicinal treatment varies depending on the severity of the illness. In case of a serious illness, even severe adverse reactions caused by the medicine must sometimes be accepted. 

You can discuss continuing or stopping the use of a medicine with a doctor or the pharmacy staff. 

The Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea maintains a national adverse medicine reaction database into which doctors, dentists, pharmacists, Masters of Science (Pharmacy), and medicine users can report adverse reactions to medicines they have noticed or suspect. 

Where can I find information about adverse reactions?

You can talk with your doctor and pharmacy staff about any adverse reactions related to the use of your medicine, how likely their occurrence is, and whether they can possibly be prevented. You can also find information on adverse reactions from the package leaflet. 

Is my medicine compatible with my other medicines?

Medicines may block, strengthen, or alter each other’s effects. The main risk factors of medicine interactions are the user’s age and the number of different medicines used.

Must I change my diet during my medication?

You do not usually have to change your diet during medication. There are, however, some exceptions to this. During the use of warfarin, for example, the use of many green vegetables and types of fruit, in particular, should be steady in order to avoid changes to the efficacy of the medication. 

Grapefruit juice interacts with several medicinal substances. The calcium in dairy products may prevent the absorption of some medicinal substances. 

Can I drink alcohol during my medication?

Alcohol does not interact well with all medicinal substances. For this reason, you should check whether you can drink alcohol during your medication. Moderate consumption of alcohol does not usually affect the efficacy of medicines. 

The amount of alcohol used often affects the strength of the interaction; heavy consumption of alcohol is not compatible with any medication. 

Can I sunbathe or visit a solarium during my medication?

Some medicines make the skin more sensitive to sunlight and the ultraviolet light of a solarium. If your skin has become sensitive to sunlight or the ultraviolet light of a solarium during medicinal treatment, consult your attending physician about your situation. 

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