Adverse drug reactions Overview of Adverse Drug Reactions Adverse drug reactions (adverse effects) are any unwanted effects of a drug or medication. In the early 1900s, German scientist Paul Ehrlich described an ideal drug as a "magic bullet." Such... read more (adverse effects) are any unwanted effects of drugs (including medications). There are several different types:
Dose-related adverse drug reactions represent an exaggeration of the drug's therapeutic effects. For example, a person taking a medication to reduce high blood pressure may feel dizzy or light-headed if the medication reduces blood pressure too much. A person with diabetes may develop weakness, sweating, nausea, and palpitations if insulin or another antidiabetic medication reduces the blood sugar level too much. This type of adverse drug reaction is usually predictable but sometimes unavoidable. It may occur if a drug dose is too high (overdose reaction) Overdose Toxicity Overdose toxicity refers to serious, often harmful, and sometimes fatal toxic reactions to an accidental overdose of a medication (because of an error on the part of the doctor, pharmacist,... read more , if the person is unusually sensitive to the drug, or if another drug slows the metabolism of the first drug and thus increases its level in the blood (see Drug Interactions Drug Interactions The effect a drug has on a person may be different than expected because that drug interacts with Another drug the person is taking (drug-drug interaction) Food, beverages, or supplements the... read more ). Dose-related reactions may or may not be serious, but they are relatively common.
Allergic drug reactions are not dose-related but require prior exposure to a drug. Allergic reactions Overview of Allergic Reactions Allergic reactions (hypersensitivity reactions) are inappropriate responses of the immune system to a normally harmless substance. Usually, allergies cause sneezing, watery and itchy eyes, a... read more develop when the body's immune system develops an inappropriate reaction to a drug (sometimes referred to as sensitization). After a person is sensitized, later exposures to the drug produce one of several different types of allergic reaction. Sometimes doctors do skin tests Skin testing Allergic reactions (hypersensitivity reactions) are inappropriate responses of the immune system to a normally harmless substance. Usually, allergies cause sneezing, watery and itchy eyes, a... read more to help predict allergic drug reactions.
Idiosyncratic adverse drug reactions result from mechanisms that are not currently understood. This type of adverse drug reaction is largely unpredictable. Examples of such adverse drug reactions include rashes, jaundice, anemia, a decrease in the white blood cell count, kidney damage, and nerve injury that may impair vision or hearing. These reactions tend to be more serious but typically occur in a very small number of people. Affected people may have genetic differences in the way their body metabolizes or responds to drugs.
Some adverse drug reactions are not related to the medication's therapeutic effect but are usually predictable, because the mechanisms involved are largely understood. For example, stomach irritation and bleeding often occur in people who regularly use aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs Pain relievers (analgesics) are the main drugs used to treat pain. Doctors choose a pain reliever based on the type and duration of pain and on the drug's likely benefits and risks. Most pain... read more . The reason is that these medications reduce the production of prostaglandins, which help protect the digestive tract from stomach acid.
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