Caution: Taking This Drug May Cause…(Part Two)

In Part One of this Series, I outlined how I dealt with losing my hair due to a preventative medication.  That was an extreme case and is likely not going to happen to the majority of Migraine patients.  But there are plenty of other more common side effects that lots of us will face.

I’ve compiled a list of ones that I’ve experienced over the years while on a variety of medications. These could have been caused by one medication or a combination. At this point, I’ve tried every medication under the sun and probably couldn’t accurately remember which one caused which side effect.  And everyone responds differently to medications, so it doesn’t mean that you will necessarily ever encounter these side effects.

The purpose in sharing these side effects is that maybe you’ll recognize something you’ve had before, but thought it wasn’t worth addressing. Maybe some of my tricks in dealing with these issues can help you and maybe you have some ways of coping that you can share. You should also know that even the smallest abnormality is worth talking to your doctor about. It’s hard enough to deal with the pain, who wants to deal with a growing pile of other symptoms if you can help it!

  • Loss of Appetite– Food was not appealing, even if I wasn’t nauseous.
  • Constipation– Too many meds caused me to get backed up. Daily fiber supplements and an occasional laxative are needed to keep me regular.
  • Dry Mouth– No matter how much water I drank, I felt like I was talking with cotton in my mouth. Act and Biotene products such as mouthwash, gum, lozenges and toothpaste are helpful.
  • Dizziness/ Low Blood Pressure– Standing up or bending over caused me to see stars. Medication had lowered my already low blood pressure, causing me to get dizzy very easily. Luckily I have never fainted. Now I’m extra careful with any quick motion and have gotten used to the sensation.
  • Wrinkly fingers- One medication caused the top layer of skin on my fingers and feet to peel off. The shedding that lasted 2-3 weeks but was a one-time only occurrence. 
  • Jitteriness- Multiple medications gave me the feeling that my skin was crawling. I was jittery and anxious. This side effect drives me insane and the options were to change medications or add in another to counteract this reaction. 
  • Trouble finding words- At first I thought I was going crazy when I found it difficult to put together a sentence out loud. I knew what I wanted to say, but couldn’t get it out. Then I learned certain medications will affect speech and thought patterns. Changing the dosage was the only thing that helped. 
  • Forgetfulness– I would forget the most routine things in my day. Even basic procedures in my normal workday I would screw up. I started carrying a notepad in order to remember daily tasks. Again a medication dosage change improved my memory.
  • Insomnia/ Excessive Sleeping- I either sleep all the time to avoid the pain or I stay up at all hours of the night in pain. Unfortunately, a good number of medications exacerbate these two issues.  Sleep aids and caffeine are like gold to me, but used sparingly.
  • Hair Loss- As I mentioned in Part One of this series, I began to lose hair earlier this year.  Again this is an unlikely side effect. I thoroughly checked out all possible causes before we were sure the culprit was a migraine preventative. The cause can also be liver issues, ovarian cysts (PCOS), estrogen deficiency or “just stress.”

What tricks do you use to deal with the side effects?  Sharing your experience may help someone else get through it!

Do not stop or change any medicine without speaking to your doctor. If you ever experience new or different symptoms or side effects, particularly after starting a new treatment, please make sure you discuss them with your doctor immediately.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (9)
  • taralane
    5 years ago

    Katie, I have been taking Depakote which causes hair loss in about 10% of the people who take it. I hated the hair loss, and the way it made me feel, but have continued to take it because it is working for me to stabilise my moods – even though I feel lacklustre most of the time. I started using a hair care product recommended by my hair dresser to regrow my hair, and have tried several of the ones out there. My hair has started to grow back, and the hair loss has stopped, so I am feeling much better about all of it. I thank my stylist daily. My doc did not understand why loss of hair was so important.

    I would encourage anyone who has a loss of hair for any reason to talk to a hair care person or dermatologist about tx that can stimulate regrowth of hair. They work for a lot of people.

    Tara

  • deborahvan-der-harst
    5 years ago

    Katie, I have been taking 2 migraine prophylactics for several years. Over the past 6 months or so I have lost of hair making it very thin in some places. It saddens me because a few months ago my hair was ver thick as it had been all my life. Would you please divulge the name of the migraine prophylactic that caused your hair loss? I take Gabapentin and Topiramate.

    I have seen an endocrinologist and other docs. All my tests also came back normal.

    Thank you,
    Deborah

  • Katie M. Golden moderator author
    5 years ago

    Deborah,
    I’m so sorry you are going through this. For me the hair loss was an incredibly emotional obstacle to overcome. I stated in Part One of this series that I did not want to name the drug for fear of people going off a medication that may be helping them. But you are struggling and I want to help you too. I encourage you to read the comments on this post as well as from Part One http://migraine.com/blog/caution-taking-this-drug-may-cause-part-one/comments/#comments

    There are 2 medications that come up multiple times as a culprit to hair loss for other patients. In the end, it’s not about what drug did it to me, but what drugs could be doing it to you.

    In the end, I had to slowly come off the drug and that was a long and painful process. I was able to substitute it with another drug that has been as effective (Zonegran). Seeing all the baby hairs growing back, I know the pain was worth it.

    Good luck to you!
    -Katie

  • mrst53
    5 years ago

    Oh, how I wish I had a loss of appetite :-). Not me, every medication I go on for migraines, just makes me hungry. My worst side effect and I don’t know if it’s the migraine “fog” or a medication “fog” is the loss of words or being able to think of words when you need them. I once asked a shrink and a neuro if I was getting AlZ because my Momma and aunts on her side have died with it, and they asked me if I remember the words eventually and if I remember why I needed the words(crosswords, usually) and I said yes. They said that was the difference in migraine “fog” and ALZ. ALZ patients might remember the words, but they won’t remember why they needed the word. It is so frustrating for me and everyone else I am speaking with, for me to not be able to get the words out, even tho I can see the word or words in my head,sometimes, but just can’t get them out. I know this is part of migraine with Aura. Another great type of migraine I have been blessed with. Aren’t migraines fun? My poor husband has had maybe 2 migraines in his life and until he did, he did believe that any headache could be that bad. Now he knows, but it took him 20 years before he finally understood. Now for the last 22 years of marriage, he finally feels sorry for me.
    I have been on the same meds forever and I am afraid to tweak them or change them, so for now, I just take the Frova with 2 advil and my old stand by, Butibiteral/with caffeine.

  • Susan
    5 years ago

    My worst reaction to a daily preventive medication, was I started having hallucinations. I was in a Walgreens parking lot and as I started backing out a new exit appeared. It was more convenient so I started driving toward it. Luckily, it disappeared before I got there. I shiver to think what I could have done if the hallucination had lasted longer.

    Then, instead of parking or even leaving the car where it was, I drove two more blocks to my office and called home. Needless to say, I didn’t drive any more for several months till we felt sure it wasn’t going to happen again.

    It turned out that the medication contained Sulfa and I am allergic to Sulfa which my doctor knew.

  • kischrjo
    5 years ago

    I took a medication topomax and it made my hair fall out. When i told the doctor i was not willing to be bald and to take me off, he thought i was full of crap as he had never heard of this side effect. After research he came back and said there is medical documentation of this but rare.

  • marlenerossman
    5 years ago

    I was prescribed Ketamine a highly controversial drug as it has been used for “recreational” purposes. Notwithstanding that it is also used as a horse tranquilizer (REALLY!) the only effect Ketamine had on me was to make my migraines MUCH, MUCH worse.

  • wendy
    5 years ago

    Audrey – thanks for the apple tip. I will try this! A good reminder that some side effects wear off. The oddest side effect I have experienced (but I have unusual reactions to many meds) was the change in taste. Some foods that I liked, i.e. Chunky candy bars, I found abhorrent. Luckily you can change a few foods here and there and still eat a balanced diet (and chocolate isn’t the best migraine choice anyway)!

  • AudreyB
    5 years ago

    When I struggled with dry mouth, I kept a sliced apple handy along with my bottle of water. I found that chewing on the apple helped much more than merely sipping water. Carrots, celery, and other crunchy fruits and veggies worked well, too. For emergencies I kept hard candy in my purse. (I tried Biotene but couldn’t use it due to the artificial sweeteners, which are a trigger for me.)

    Some side-effects eventually taper off. Some are rare and sound weird. I say, keep trying until you find what works for YOU!!.

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