5 Unusual Side Effects of Medication Known to Medical Science

Modern medicine, or pharmaceutical drugs, was first developed back in 1804 by a German scientist called Friedrich Serturner. He discovered the famous painkiller, morphine. In the same century, paracetamol and quinine were also commercialized.

However, medical science has come a long way with its drug inventions. Gradually, every possible disease (physical or mental ailment) has a medication for treatment or therapeutic purposes. While most medicines perform their role and aid cure, some of them may have adverse side effects.

The National Institutes of Health recognizes drug side effects as one of the adverse medical events, others being psychological harm, injury, trauma, or death. Some of the most common issues include dry mouth, dizziness, constipation, drowsiness, and headaches.

However, certain medicines have been found to cause major damage, some leading to unusual side effects. In this article, we will list six such side effects along with the medication responsible for each in detail.  

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Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN)

As per John Hopkins Medicine, toxic epidermal Necrolysis is a life-threatening skin condition. In this disorder, the patient’s epidermal layer of skin begins to blister and peel off. By peeling, we mean that the skin flakes off in layers.

This can be extremely painful as raw patches of skin are exposed. These areas are highly susceptible to infections as the loose skin releases fluids and salts. The following are the symptoms of toxic epidermal Necrolysis –

  • Painful red patches that quickly spread
  • Skin blistering or peeling off in layers
  • Extreme pain and discomfort
  • Fever

This condition does not limit itself to its area of origin. It can quickly spread to the mouth, eyes, anus, genitals, etc. Since it is a life-threatening condition, immediate action is a must. Treatment options include isolation to prevent infection, ointments, antibiotics, and intravenous fluid supply.

As for the medication responsible for this side effect, there is not one to name. Some antibiotics, like penicillin and quinolones, may cause TEN. Furthermore, seizure medications such as phenytoin and carbamazepine may also lead to this condition.

While these drugs are not yet banned, certain combination drugs (including phenytoin) used for seizure treatment have been recalled.

Hand-Foot Syndrome

The Cleveland Clinic refers to the hand-foot syndrome (HFS) as a skin reaction affecting the soles of one’s feet and palms of one’s hands. The most common symptoms of this condition include redness and swelling in hands and feet (along with pain and discomfort).

Commonly, HFS is caused due to a reaction to chemotherapy drugs. The first-ever cases of this condition were discovered in patients being treated for leukemia. As such, the medicines that may cause this side effect include Taxotere, Nexavar, Sutent, and Votrient.

Hand-foot syndrome is not terminal; its treatment depends on symptom control. The patient’s cancer treatment may have to be stopped till they heal from HFS using topical steroid ointments and creams.

From the medicines mentioned above, Taxotere is already under legal scrutiny due to permanent hair loss or alopecia among chemotherapy patients. As for the others, bans on Nexavar and Sutent were lifted in 2008; they are still used for cancer treatment.

 Tooth Decay

When a tooth’s enamel or outermost surface suffers damage and erosion, the individual is said to suffer from tooth decay. As the condition progresses, the patient may have holes or cavities in their teeth.

If left untreated, tooth decay will gradually lead to discomfort, infection, and permanent tooth loss. The common symptoms of tooth decay include –

  • Toothache or pain
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods
  • Cavity or holes
  • Brown or white stains on the tooth’s surface
  • An infection that leads to pus formation (abscess). This can further cause facial swelling.

The treatment options for tooth decay include fillings, fluoride treatments, root canals, or tooth extraction in severe cases. The drug that has received much criticism for causing rapid tooth decay is Suboxone, used to treat opioid addiction.

Even this drug has reached the Federal courtroom due to its side effects. The Suboxone tooth decay lawsuit alleges that the drug manufacturer, Indivior, was aware of the dental injuries it could cause. However, they chose not to reveal the full extent of damage Suboxone was capable of.

According to TruLaw, many plaintiffs have suffered serious teeth damage, requiring extractions, root canals, and caps. The plaintiff’s counsel is hopeful of positive outcomes, given the scope of this litigation. As of now, the drug is still in use to treat opioid addiction.

Loss of Smell

Loss of smell, also known as anosmia, can be partial or total. This loss in sensation may be temporary or permanent. Naturally, this condition may occur when a patient suffers severe trauma to the head or a brain tumor. Old age also leads to anosmia.

Though anosmia is not a life-threatening condition, it can impact daily life severely. For instance – patients may lose their ability to taste foods properly and have no appetite for their favorite dishes.

This condition is usually treated with the help of steroid nasal sprays, decongestants, antibiotics, and antihistamines. As for the medications, anosmia may be caused by blood pressure medicines like Vasotec and Norvasc. It could also be the result of consuming cholesterol medications like Lipitor. As of now, all these drugs are still in use.

Abnormal Dreams

Psychology states that nightmares or vivid dreams may be a result of extreme stress. When a person keeps obsessing over something that bothers them, they may see a dream related to it. However, abnormal dreams can also be a result of certain medications.

These medicines include antidepressants Effexor XR, allergy medication like Singulair, and beta blockers like Trandate. In some cases, the above-mentioned Lipitor may also lead to nightmares. People facing these side effects may experience issues like daytime drowsiness, sleep resistance, mood swings, and suicidal thinking.

Some ways in which these issues are treated include getting the person off the particular medication, employing healthy coping strategies for stress, and imagery rehearsal therapy.

As we draw to a close, you may have a good idea of how strange the world of medical science can be sometimes. In some cases, the side effect is merely an allergy. In others, the drug’s chemical structure is such that it cannot help but trigger side effects.

With the right dosage, certain after-effects can be curbed. However, in many cases, the only option left is to drop the drug and pursue treatment for the side effects instead.