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What are side effects?

for Veterans and the Public

What are side effects?

Medicines can cause changes (or effects) in the body. Some effects, like making you feel better, are the ones that you want and expect to happen. Other effects are ones that you don't want or don't expect. The effects that you don't want or expect are called side effects.

Almost all medicines may have side effects in some people. Some people take aspirin for a headache, but it gives them an upset stomach. The upset stomach is a side effect of the aspirin. Not all side effects are unpleasant, though. Even the side effects that make you feel sick aren't always bad. Some side effects mean that your medicine has started to work.

Your provider will try to prescribe anti-HIV medicines that fight the HIV virus in your body without causing unpleasant side effects.

How do you deal with side effects?

Some side effects can be hard to deal with. One way to cope with them is to know what to watch out for and have a plan to deal with problems that come up.

That's why you need to talk to your VA provider about the risk of side effects from different drugs, before you start therapy.

At the beginning of any treatment, you go through a period of adjustment--a time when your body has to get used to the new drugs you're taking. Sometimes you'll have headaches, an upset stomach, fatigue, or aches and pains. These side effects may go away after a few days or a few weeks.

If you notice any unusual or severe reactions after starting or changing a drug, report the side effects to your provider immediately.

More information is available in the Side Effects Guide.