Medications and Family Health History

We have discussed the ways in which family health history can be helpful in determining a diagnosis and courses of preventive care, but it can also be helpful in preventing adverse reactions to certain medications.  A personal story in the Montreal Gazette, explains the importance of both learning from your own personal medical history as you grow up as well as the importance of considering how your medical history might affect the way your body could react to certain medications.

Celine Cooper of The Montreal Gazette, wrote of her own personal experience with an adverse reaction to a birth control pill containing estrogen and progestin. When she asked her doctor for a prescription for the pill, Cooper didn’t know that she was at high risk for a hereditary condition that made her more susceptible to blood clots.  Cooper, was active, healthy, and didn’t smoke, but at the age of 17, she developed between 13 and 15 blood clots in her leg.  Experiencing severe back pain, Cooper was rushed to the ER where they diagnosed the clots and she was able to receive treatment before there were any severe consequences.  Cooper had little knowledge of her family health history at the time, and her doctors reasonably assumed that she had had a fluke, albeit serious, reaction to the birth control pill she was taking.

Several years down the road, Cooper began thinking seriously about starting a family, and consulted her physician about pregnancy.  When her doctor reviewed her medical history, the blood clots Cooper had experienced at age 17 stuck out as unusual, and the doctor sent her for a series of blood tests.  Only then did Cooper discover that she had inherited a blood disorder that put her at increased risk for clotting when taking estrogen-containing medications and during pregnancy.  Armed with this knowledge, Cooper and her doctors were able to work together to ensure two healthy pregnancies, a feat that might not have been possible without the knowledge of her medical history.

It’s important that you yourself keep track of medical history records, because you never know what information will be useful in the future.  If you visit different specialists or have to change doctors for any reason, the physician might not know your full background and story.  Having records on hand that you can bring with you to the doctor can help you work with your physician to figure out the right course for you and your specific needs.  Our next blog post will highlight ways to organize your family health history and medical records to share with your doctor.

Have questions?  Don’t be afraid to ask.  If your doctor wants to prescribe a certain medication, ask if there might be any possibility of complications due to your family or personal medical history.  Your physician is a medical expert, but only you can be an expert on your own health history.  Collecting your family health history and sharing it with your physician is one of the best ways you can be involved with the healthcare you receive.