Side Effect vs. Main Effect
Press release – In the medical world, everything should be carefully worded because a simple mistake could complicate things for the patients. Because this field is full of jargon that are mostly too technical for the general public, wording literature in layman’s terms is indeed helpful.
A good example of this dilemma are the words “side effect” and “main effect”. These are more often than not, interchanged or used instead of the other. Doing so is not just wrong but also dangerous to the people’s health as well.
A side effect of any substance pertains to the result beyond the main or primary action that is intended by the physician giving drug prescription. The doctor, likewise, foresees this extra consequence.
For instance, the patient might not be conscious of the side effect of unwanted hair growth elsewhere on the body while using the vasodilator drug called Minoxidil to treat hypertension. The physician, nevertheless, is very well aware about it as well as other implications, such as burning or irritation of the eye, itching, and redness or irritation on the area being treated. And there might be doctors that will suggest that patients should just ignore the side effects unless it’s really serious.
But not all the side effects are a boon. The bane is that they are often used as a therapeutic benefit in the pharmaceutical industry. Like the Minoxidil which was initially developed to treat high blood pressure. People taking it reported an unusual side effect: Unwanted hair began to grow on various parts of their bodies. In this case, the downside of the drug is controlled and employed for a beneficial and therapeutic effect judiciously. It is noted that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the prescription of two percent (2%) Minoxidil topical solution for hair loss in men in 1988 and for women in 1992.
An adverse effect, on the other hand, is identified as an outcome wherein the reaction occurs over and beyond the main and wanted action of a medicine. Both the physician and the patient may or may not know about it as a consequence of taking such treatment. It can happen simply due to incorrect dosage. Undesirably, this is very harmful as it can exacerbate the prognosis of the disease. Unfortunately, if the adverse effect is too serious, there might be a need for hospitalization.
Take for example Sildenafil Citrate, a medication used to treat erectile dysfunction and pulmonary arterial hypertension. Its most common adverse reactions (≥ 2%) are headache, flushing, dyspepsia, abnormal vision, myalgia, nausea, nasal congestion, back pain, dizziness, and rash. Patients should seek emergency treatment if an erection lasts over four hours. Additionally, patients should stop Sildenafil Citrate and seek medical care if a sudden decrease or loss of hearing and also that of vision in one or both eyes.
Since side effects paired with adverse effects can be fatal and need to be reversed or given an antidote immediately, there should be a very extra cautious effort not to interchange them with the main effects in the prescription process. It’s the lives of patients at stake here.
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