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Medication Management

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Effective Pain Management
By Cheryl Ellis, Staff Writer

(Page 4 of 6)

Neuropathy (“nerve damage”) affects an estimated 20 million Americans according to The Neuropathy Association.  Damage to the nerves can create burning and sometimes “stabbing” pains in the feet.

In some cases, anti-cancer and retroviral treatments may create their own painful side effects, some of which can be balanced by other medications, including antidepressant therapy. 

This immune deficiency virus makes patients of all ages susceptible to yeast infections, throat and mouth sores and other viruses that can attack the body.  Bacterial infections are experienced, too, and require antibiotics as the doctor decides. 

The AIDS patient may have skin eruptions, and these sores or rashes contribute to pain and require treatment.  For example, Kaposi sarcoma is a skin lesion seen in the AIDS patient that initially doesn’t cause pain, but as it becomes worse, pain can be extreme.  While Kaposi is not considered “curable,” it can be treated by an oncologist or dermatologist with experience in this area. 

Mouth sores or other conditions affecting the mouth can hamper eating, whether the foods are acidic or not.  Physicians are familiar with this aspect of the challenges of living with AIDS, and may recommend supplements in addition to other treatment for thrush or mouth sores.  Accommodate your loved one’s choices in whether or not to eat at given times, and oversee that medications are taken when ordered, even if alternate routes must be prescribed.

In some cases, individuals with AIDS may have a concurrent infection with the Hepatitis C virus, which also challenges pain management and treatment.  When doctors assess for pain in the AIDS patient, they look for other causes of pain, even if the pain felt is typical for an AIDS patient.  Hepatitis C is one possibility for a “co-infection,” but other conditions such as cancers of organs or blood may be present. 

Treating the root cause of pain (such as mouth or ear pain from infections) is the doctor’s priority, which is the reason why patients may be at the doctor or hospitalized frequently.  The choice is to act quickly to stop infections from causing more problems.


The National Cancer Institute ( offers an online booklet to assist cancer patients and their caregivers with pain management.  

“Cancer pains” may arise from chemotherapy or radiation, creating nerve damage or phantom pain from body parts that have been removed.  Radiation can cause painful “sunburn” during treatment.

Whenever there is surgery performed, temporary pain may be experienced because skin and organs are cut and maneuvered around.  Post-surgical pain fades with time and appropriate management, which may include physical therapy and resuming daily activities. 

The growth of cancer within the body contributes to pain, also.  As cancer is being treated, therapeutic levels of controlling the growth are sought; but patients may still experience pain while waiting for the abnormal cells to be eradicated.  This is where pain control offers a great deal to assist in stress reduction and continuing patient compliance with therapy.  It’s difficult to ask a loved one to continue with treatment when pain makes them feel they aren’t getting better, and the goal is to quickly assess the level of pain to begin pain control.  It makes the treatment much easier to cope with, for caregiver and loved one.


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