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15 Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Your Medications

Ask Your Doctor About Your Drugs

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Updated August 06, 2008

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Ask Your Doctor!
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  1. What Is the Name of My Medication
  2. You should know the names of all of your medications, both prescription and over the counter. Since you may receive treatment from more than one doctor, you should inform each doctor about all the medications and dietary supplements that you take. This will help to make sure that the medication your doctor has prescribed is the correct one for your health condition.

  3. What Does My Medication Do?
  4. You should know why your doctor has prescribed a medication for you. Your doctor should tell you for what condition you are being treated and why you need the medication.

  5. How and When Should I Take My Medication?
  6. It is very important to take your medication correctly to ensure that it gives you the help you need. Although the label on your medication container will tell you how much medication to take and when, you should know what to expect before you have a prescription filled. You are more likely to take your medication correctly if you know how to use it and how it fits with your daily routine.

  7. For How Long Should I Take My Medication?
  8. You may develop a serious problem by not taking your medications as prescribed. Make sure that you clearly understand how long you need to take the medication and if you need refills. If you have a chronic disease such as diabetes, you may be on the medication for many years.

  9. What Should I Do if I Feel Better and I Do Not Want to Finish the Entire Amount of Medication Prescribed By My Doctor?
  10. You should not stop taking your medication before speaking with your doctor. Your doctor will help you understand your health condition and the reason why you were prescribed the medication. This should help you better appreciate why you need to complete the full course of your medication.

    For example, if you are being treated for strep throat, it is important to take your antibiotic for a full 10 days, even though you may feel better after 24 to 48 hours of treatment. Stopping your medication too soon can cause a flare up of the infection or lead to complications from the strep germ.

  11. Does My Medication Contain Anything That Can Cause an Allergic Reaction?
  12. Ask your doctor if there is anything in your medical history that would make you more likely to have an allergic reaction to your medication. People with health conditions related to allergies, such as asthma and hay fever, may be more likely to have an allergic reaction to a medication. Also, certain medications such as antibiotics and over-the-counter pain medications are more likely to cause allergic reactions.

  13. What Foods, Drinks, or Activities Should I Avoid While Taking This Medication?
  14. Certain foods and alcohol can interact with your medication. For example, grapefruit juice interacts with medications used to treat high cholesterol, such as Lipitor (atorvastatin). Alcohol can increase the side effects of medications used to treat pain, such as Tylenol with Codeine.

    Some medications such as Diovan (valsartan), used to treat high blood pressure, can cause drowsiness and may affect activities such as driving.

  15. Is It Safe For Me to Take This Medication With Other Drugs or Dietary Supplements?
  16. Your medication may interact with other drugs causing an adverse reaction. It is important to inform your doctor about all of the medications and supplements that you are taking so she can advise you about possible interactions.

  17. Should I Expect Any Side Effects From My Medication?
  18. All medications can cause side effects, but they are not always serious. Your doctor can help you anticipate these side effects and advise you on how to deal with them. If you experience unexplained side effects, contact your doctor. Do not stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor first. If you think you are having a serious side effect that is of immediate danger to your health, call 911 or go to your local emergency room.

  19. Is There a Generic Version of My Medication?
  20. Generic drugs are often less expensive than their brand name counterparts. Your doctor can tell you if there is a generic version of your medication and answer any questions you have about safety.

  21. What Should I Do if I Miss a Dose of My Medication?
  22. On occasion, you may make a mistake or forget to take your medication. The decision to take your missed dose depends on the drug. You should know the answer to this question before it happens.

  23. Is it Safe to Use This Medication if I Am Pregnant or Breastfeeding?
  24. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should ask your doctor before using any prescription or over-the-counter medications. Some medications cause no problems, but others can cause birth defects if taken early in pregnancy. Also, some drugs pass through your system into breast milk.

  25. How Soon Should I Feel the Effects of the Medication?
  26. Medications vary in how quickly they work in your body. Some drugs, such as sleep aids containing Benadryl (diphenhydramine), can work in less than an hour. Other drugs, such as Paxil paroxetine (used to treat depression) may take as long as two weeks before you notice any effects.

  27. Will Any Tests Be Necessary While I Am Taking This Medication?
  28. Your doctor should tell you if you need any tests while you take a medication, how often you should be tested, and, what the test results mean. Some commonly used drugs that may require regular blood tests are Lipitor (atorvastatin), to check for liver damage; Synthroid (levothyroxine) to check levels of thyroid hormone; and, Dilantin (phenytoin) to make sure the levels of the drug in the body are safe.

  29. What Are the Risks Associated With the Medication, and Do the Benefits Outweigh Those Risks?
  30. This is an important discussion that you should have with your doctor to help you decide if you are going to take a medication. If you have a mild health problem, such as a common cold, then you most likely will not want to take a medication with potentially serious side effects.

    However, if you have a chronic condition with potentially serious complications, then you are more likely to agree to a treatment that can help prevent these complications. For example, your doctor may prescribe daily insulin injections if you have diabetes, however, these injections can cause dangerously low blood sugar.

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  5. Medication Questions - 15 Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Your Medications

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