Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Side Effects Of Medication: An Introduction

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). By killing or damaging cells of the body's immune system, HIV progressively destroys the body's ability to fight infections and certain cancers.

One solution is to treat people infected with HIV with antiretroviral medications to help them lead longer, healthier lives. The goal such treatment is to reduce the amount of the virus in a person’s body and prevent destruction of the immune system.

Most people taking antiretroviral medications have some side effects.

Some side effects are mild. Others can be severe. Some may last for a few days or weeks and then lessen or go away, but others might continue as long as you take a medication, or even after you stop.

Some occur within days or weeks of starting a drug. Others may only show up after months or years of therapy. Some side effects are very common and will happen to most people taking a drug. Other side effects are very rare.

Your age, body weight and size, gender, and overall health can play a role in how you experience side effects. Common side effects with all HIV medications are: diarrhea, feeling tired (fatigue), headache, liver problems, upset stomach (nausea), stomach pain, vomiting, and poor appetite.

Side effects are one of the main reasons why people stop taking HIV medications.

No matter how bad the medication makes people feel, the job of a dietitian and/or nurse is help those being treated to keep taking the full dose of the drug until the doctor tell them otherwise. Missing even a few doses or taking less than a full dose, could cause the drug to stop working all together.

We remind clients that it can take time for their bodies to get used to the medication. It deserves a chance to do so. However, when side effects continue for several months and affect quality of life for a long period of time, then it's best to consult a health care provider about changing the treatment.

There is something else clients can do. Many side effects can be managed nutritionally.

For example, if the medication makes them feel nauseous, they might eat small but frequent meals that include dry, salty foods such as pretzels and crackers. Or, sometimes, it helps to drink ginger ale. Here are some other resources that may help:

• AIDS Info, which is a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
• AIDS Info Net, which provides reliable, up-to-date treatment information.

At Aid for AIDS of Nevada (AFAN), a registered dietitian is available to provide counseling to decrease some medication side effects through nutrition therapy.

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