Medical Definition of Side effects

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Side effects: Problems that occur when treatment goes beyond the desired effect. Or problems that occur in addition to the desired therapeutic effect.

Example -- A hemorrhage from the use of too much anticoagulant (such as heparin) is a side effect caused by treatment going beyond the desired effect.

Example -- The common side effects of cancer treatment including fatigue, nausea, vomiting, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss, and mouth sores are instances of side effects that occur in addition to the desired therapeutic effect.

Drug manufacturers are required to list all known side effects of their products. When side effects of necessary medication are severe, sometimes a second medication, lifestyle change, dietary change, or other measure may help to minimize them.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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