10 Baffling Medication Side Effects

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Modern medicine is about as close to a miracle as you’re likely to see in your lifetime. The number of lives saved each and every year thanks to everything from penicillin to cancer treatments to insulin is staggering. It’s very likely utterly incalculable. But it does come with a price that most of us are willing to pay, and not of the cash variety. Many medications cause their own effects on the human body, and some of them are just far more bizarre than others.

10. Taint Damage

Jardiance was approved for use in treating type 2 diabetes by the FDA back in 2014. In recent years, the ad campaigns for the drug have really picked up on television. The commercials in the United States, as required by law, run through a list of potential side effects. These are often narrated in a very calm and soothing voice so that viewers are less likely to be completely creeped out when they get to necrotizing fasciitis of the perineum.

If you’re familiar with any of those terms you’re probably already cringing. This condition, also known as Fournier’s Gangrene, is characterized by blackening, rotting tissue of the perineum, which is an area between the anus and genitals and not the sort of place that you want to experience any kind of rotting flesh.

Jardiance lists yeast infections as one of the most common side effects and it occurs in both men and women on the medication. The precise mechanism isn’t exactly known but certain diabetics are more prone to urinary tract and yeast infections due to their blood sugar levels and this particular bacterial infection may start the same way. 

9. Rainbow Urine

There are few things in life more disconcerting than realizing your insides are no longer working the way you expect them to. This can manifest in any number of ways, but when you head to the bathroom and your urine stream starts bursting forth in a veritable rainbow of shades, it’s going to give anyone pause. 

There are a handful of foods that can sometimes affect the color of urine, but medications tend to go above and beyond in doing this. Drugs like Thorazine and Ex-Lax can turn your urine red. Chloroquine can give you dark brown urine. Amitriptyline can turn it green or blue. Warfarin will turn it orange or red. Excess B-vitamins can make it neon yellow. It’s possible that some drugs may even cause black urine.

There’s even a condition called purple bag urine syndrome in which patients who have catheterized produce deep purple urine but only when it reaches the catheter bag itself, the result of a reaction between pigments caused by a UTI and the bag itself.

Generally these changes in color are not entirely dangerous and will fade when the drug is no longer being taken. 

8. Genital Itching

Itchiness seems like the kind of side effect you could expect from all kinds of medications. In particular, if you have an allergy to anything in a medication, it stands to reason you might feel your skin crawling a little bit after taking it. Floxin is a medication that has this side effects, it’s just weirdly localized.

If you have cellulitis, pneumonia or even the plague, your doctor may prescribe ofloxacin to treat it. It’s an antibiotic that’s clearly useful against a host of infections. Like most antibiotics, it may cause stomach upset, diarrhea or headaches. Unlike most, it can also cause genital itching. Not an all-over itching, but specifically genital itching

There’s also a chance ofloxacin will cause anemia, nightmares, toxic psychosis and sensitivity to sunlight so becoming an itchy crotch vampire is not an unfair description of what the drug could potentially do. Those are not common side effects, but they are listed as potential ones. 

7. Getting Shorter

Prednisone is a drug that has been in use in America since 1955. It’s one of the most common medications out there and can treat asthma, allergies, tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis, and even heart failure and some cancers. It’s clearly seen widespread use, and for the most part this is because the side effects are generally tolerable.

Weight gain, dizziness, headaches and some changes in mood are all fairly common side effects of prednisone use. And when you get into the rare side effects, you’ll notice some more concerning ones like bloody stool and abnormal fat deposits. But buried in the middle of the list of side effects that the Mayo Clinic has available is arguably the strangest one: decrease in height.

Essentially what happens is that prednisone use in younger patients may lead to a decrease in growing, or what you’d call stunted growth. Overall, based on averages, this seems to carry over for some patients into adulthood. Meaning you’re going to be shorter than you otherwise would be. The difference isn’t significant and may only be as much as a centimeter. But still, that was a centimeter you were supposed to have. 

6. Black, Hairy Tongue

The tongue is one of our weirdest body parts. It has a strange intimacy that most other parts don’t because you’re using it all the time out in the open and yet it can be both alluring and disgusting depending on who’s using it and how. You need it to taste your food, and the idea of someone else licking your food probably causes revulsion on a basic level. By and large, you want your tongue to stay the way it’s supposed to be all the time.

Pepto Bismol, everyone’s least favorite pink beverage and cure for heartburn, nausea, indigestion, upset stomach and diarrhea, has a curious tongue-related side effect. For some who take it, the medication can lead to a black, hairy tongue. This is actually listed as a common side effect of the medication. It’s relatively harmless and not permanent, so you can expect it to go away after a couple of days.

Bismuth subsalicylate, the active ingredient in the medication, causes the black color. It reacts with sulfur in your mouth, which not everyone will have, and turns black. The hairy part is just an affectation of the surface of your tongue caused by buildup on the papillae getting clogged up with that sulfur and bismuth mixture, making them look furry. 


5. Yawngasms

Arguably one of the most complicated families of medications in the world today are antidepressants. There are a number that work, even though doctors can’t explain how or why. If that sounds dangerous, well, that’s medicine sometimes. 

Antidepressants have done a lot of good for people, but they can and do have some very harsh side effects. That said, they also offer up a few curveballs. Take clomipramine, for instance. It’s used to treat OCD and manic-depressive disorders. The World Health Organization has it on a list of essential medications, and it has been available since the 1960s.

Aside from the standard side effects, which can include dry mouth and weight gain, there are also some clinical studies out there of patients who have experienced orgasms linked to yawning after taking the drug. In fact, this side effect could be triggered by forcing a yawn as well, not just waiting for one to occur naturally. 

Although rare, both men and women have experienced the side effect and it’s not just a once in a while thing. It’s every single time the person yawns. Unsurprisingly, most patients were not entirely inconvenienced by this. 

4. Green Blood

Sumatriptan is a medication used to treat migraine headaches. It’s marketed as Imitrex and has been around since the early 1990s. It’s proven to be quite popular and effective, and currently over six million people use it. Fatigue and vomiting are some of the more run of the mill symptoms people experience when on the medication. 

Sulfur is one of the compounds that makes Sumatriptan and it can, in very rare cases, cause sulfhemoglobinemia. This occurs when the hemoglobin molecules in your blood bond to sulfur atoms. That, in turns, causes your blood to turn from red to green.

Your blood isn’t really designed to work with sulfur in it, so this could be a dangerous condition if it continued. However, red blood cells have a limited shelf life, so if this condition does occur, you can simply stop taking the medication and wait. New red blood cells will be formed and your blood will go back to normal. 

3. Return of Hair Color

The global hair color industry is worth around $30 billion. That’s a lot of hair color. And while the majority of it is likely just for esthetic purposes, a good deal is sold to help people cover up their grey hair. 

The battle against aging rages on, and for many it’s an uphill one. But it turns out there’s a medication that has the unexpected side effect of turning back the clock, at least in terms of hair color for some patients.

Gleevec is a cancer drug, often prescribed for those with leukemia. Doctors in France first noticed the side effect when a handful of men and women who had grey hair started developing their old pigments again after about five months on the drug. 

The side effect is by no means common and doctors aren’t fully sure how it happens, but they do warn that people should not take the drug just because they want to eliminate grey hair. There are a host of other potential side effects including nausea, heart failure and others.

2. Sense of Impending Doom

Although the chemical compound adenosine is found naturally in human cells, it’s also used as a medication. It can be used to smooth out supraventricular tachycardia among other things, including preparing patients for cardiac stress tests. 

Despite being an organic compound that’s naturally found in the human body, when patients receive it intravenously it can cause the odd side effect. Numbness and lightheadedness are common but then so is what they describe as a sense of impending doom.

The side effect isn’t something everyone is going to experience and it’s clear from the description it’s not a usual one. Many of those who have experienced this side effect feel an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and that anything they do is going to be pointless because something indefinably bad is on the horizon. 

1. Higher IQ

If you’ve ever taken the time to read the table of some salt you may have noticed it’s usually called iodized salt. As that suggests it means the salt has had iodine added to it. Like fluoride added to water to prevent cavities, iodine was added to salt to prevent iodine deficiency.

Iodine has been added to most table salt since the 1980s but it dates back to the 1920s originally and the results have been profound. Iodine deficiency is known to cause thyroid problems and serious birth defects. One of the chief causes of developmental delays and other related disabilities is iodine deficiency.

Research has shown that after iodized salt was introduced to areas where iodine deficiency was common, IQ points rose across the board by about 15 points. An entire generation of people seem to actually be smarter, by and large, thanks to iodine in salt.


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