Know Your Meds

Published: February 01, 2016

by: Dr. Frederick Doerfler, Jr., medical director, LIFE Lawrence County and LIFE Armstrong County

Medications are on everyone's mind these days. We have pills to treat most every ailment a person could have. And as we get older, and have more health problems, we have to take medications daily, even three to four times a day. Some people are prescribed as many as 15 to 20 medications a day!

That is a lot of pills. A few of these pills must be taken at specific times. For instance, heartburn medication should be taken before breakfast and aspirin with a meal. But iron should be taken on an empty stomach. So the schedules can be complex and even time consuming.

So know your medications.

Ask your doctor if you don't know what you are being prescribed. Know them by name, not just by pill color or size. 

Try to simplify when you take your medications. When at all possible, your nurse and physician will try to arrange the medications so you are only taking them once or twice a day. Your physician will also try to minimize the number of medications a person is taking, whenever possible. This reduces the chances of the side effects and complications that may happen from taking too many medications.

If you feel you are having side effects, talk to your physician. Depending on the problem you are having, your physician may ask you to stop the medication temporarily, wean off of it, or try a different medication altogether.

Do not stop a medication unless directed by your physician. You could have side effects if you stop medication suddenly.

Google it! But only search your medication in quality, health-related websites, like www.mayoclinic.org or www.medscape.com. An informed patient is a healthy patient. If you have questions about medical information you see on the internet, discuss it with your doctor.

Do not believe every drug advertisement on television. The medications being advertised are for specific groups of people and problems. Often they are the most expensive medications and may not even be the best medication for you. Your doctor can talk to you about any medication you have heard about, and you can decide together if it is appropriate for your use.

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