Side Effects Include…

Currently, I am on a lot of medication. Five different kinds, actually, totalling fifteen tablets a day. These medications are obviously all very important and all do various different jobs, but they also – as I’m sure you can imagine – come with a thrilling array of side effects. So here is a list of all (well, most) of the different meds I’ve been on over the last eighteen months, and their motley collection of side effects.

For my Ulcerative Colitis:

  • Prednisolone: so this is a steroid, which, for lack of a higher word count, is an anti-inflammatory. It’s prescribed during flare-ups to calm your insides right down, and for me at least is the only thing discovered so far that can do a thorough job – which is frustrating, because it’s not something you should be on long-term. This is because of its many, MANY listed side effects, the big one is that it affects your bone strength and – if taken for long enough – can lead to osteoporosis. I am not currently on steroids, as I spent most of 2016 downing several tablets a day with a token glass of milk, and this makes my nurse extremely frowny. In the shorter term, steroids also lead to a huge increase in appetite (seriously, it’s unreal – basically if something isn’t moving, you’ll eat it) and the no-seriously-this-is-actually-what-doctors-call-it ‘moonface’ chub. I’ve actually been weirdly fortunate with a lack of moonface, though on my highest dose did also get very dry skin and some quite spectacular mood swings.
  • Balsalazide: this is my highest dose of tablets (a whopping 9 per day), and I actually haven’t noticed any side effects at all. To be honest, I haven’t noticed any effects, either. This is supposed to keep my bowels chill after the steroids have done the hard part, but as previously mentioned this has not gone super well so far.
  • Azathioprine: Ulcerative colitis is actually an autoimmune disease – your own immune system attacks healthy tissue in your bowels, thinking it’s helping. (It’s not.) So azathioprine is an immunosuppressant, designed to lower your immune system and hopefully stop it beating on your (my) organs. This isn’t actually as scary as it sounds: it hasn’t meant I get ill more often, just that getting ill can be worse. Though so far I’ve only really noticed it taking me longer to get over a cold than it used to. That said, before I was put on azathioprine I was tested for all sorts of antibodies, and it turns out I’ve never had glandular fever (which, according to my doctor, is something most people in their twenties have actually had in some form, whether it was the didn’t-notice-it-just-seemed-like-a-bad-cold variety, or the literally-felt-like-I-was-dying-for-six-months kind). This probably means that there is a seriously sucky year in my future somewhere, but for right now just means that you’ll have to excuse me if I promptly leave any room containing a person who has glandular fever.

For my blood pressure:

  • Amlodopine: the newest addition to my medication roster, and actually the prompt for this whole blog post. Not because it has the worst side effects, but because they’re just so friggin irritating. Whilst it does seem to have brought my blood pressure down, and I would rather take these than beta-blockers (which were the alternative), amlodopine gives me old lady ankles. Now this may not sound like a big deal, but it is pretty damn disheartening to walk home from work and have the apparently extraordinary strenuousness of this activity lead to your ankles getting so hot, swollen and itchy as you try and stand in the kitchen to make tea, that you have to go and sit upside-down on the sofa with your legs in the air. It is annoying as hell to have freezing cold feet simultaneously with burning hot ankles that itch like you wouldn’t believe, and it is embarrassing to have the kind of fat, skin-stretched shiny ankles you have only ever seen on your grandma. I never even acknowledged that chubby ankles were a thing until I had them.

Generally:

  • The mini-pill: without getting into a contraception rant, I was put on this as a replacement for the combined pill (on which I’d never had any problems) when my blood pressure sky-rocketed, and it fucking sucks. Many women, I have been told, have a fabulous, meadow-frolicking, puppy-cuddling, sunshine-laden time on this pill. I, however, have been on my period for four months out of the last six. This one is going.
  • Vitamin tablets: hahahahaha LIKE THIS IS ACTUAL MEDICATION. No, to be fair, I take these every day in a dubious effort to try and make up for the nutrition my body isn’t always getting from food (see: buggered bowels). I particularly enjoy the expensive ones my mum gets from Holland and Barratt that taste like fossilised jelly babies, or those chewy ones that taste like regular jelly babies, but I’m poor so it’s Tesco’s best. If these have side effects, how could I possibly have noticed them in the (not literal) shitstorm caused by all of the above?

So there you are – one of the most depressing lists a 23 year old can write! But to be completely fair, I’ve generally done surprisingly well out of side effects. I’ve always been warned of the most prominent suspects before being put on the medication that causes it, and up until the ankles actually got away without many of them – or very mild versions. And, of course, many other people in the world experience many worse side effects at the cost of trying to make themselves ultimately better.

All I’m saying is please – look down, right now, and take a moment to appreciate your beautifully slender, normal-temperature ankles. You would miss them if they were gone.

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