Before you begin taking a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should take this medication.
Fat redistribution: Over time, this medication may change how fat is distributed in your body and may change your body shape. You may notice increased fat in the upper back and neck, breast, around the back, chest, and stomach area; or loss of fat from the legs, arms, and face. The long-term effects of this are not known.
Immune reconstitution syndrome: This medication may cause immune reconstitution syndrome, where signs and symptoms of inflammation from previous infections appear. These symptoms occur soon after starting anti-HIV medication and can vary. They are thought to occur as a result of the immune system improving and being able to fight infections that have been present without symptoms (such as pneumonia, herpes, or tuberculosis). Report any new symptoms to your doctor as soon as possible.
Kidney function: Didanosine is removed from the body by the kidneys. Decreased kidney function may cause an increase in side effects due to an increased amount of medication in the body.
If you have reduced kidney function, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed. People with severely reduced kidney function should not take this medication.
Lactic acidosis and enlarged fatty liver: Didanosine can cause a rare but serious condition called lactic acidosis (build-up of lactic acid in the blood) together with an enlarged liver. This tends to occur more often in women, especially if they are overweight. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
- abdominal pain, swelling, or bloating
- feeling unwell
- shortness of breath
- weight loss
Your doctor will monitor your liver function periodically by ordering laboratory tests.
Liver function: People with liver disease or reduced liver function appear to have an increased risk of additional liver damage due to taking didanosine. If you have liver disease or decreased liver function, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.
Liver failure has occurred in people taking didanosine who have had no previous liver problems. If you experience symptoms of liver problems (e.g., abdominal pain, persistent vomiting, feeling unwell, fever, itching, yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine), contact your doctor immediately.
Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas): Didanosine may cause or worsen pancreatitis. If you have a history of or are at risk for developing pancreatitis, you should be closely monitored by your doctor while taking this medication. If you develop signs of pancreatitis (e.g., upper left abdominal pain, back pain, nausea, fever, chills, rapid heartbeat, swollen abdomen), contact your doctor.
Peripheral neuropathy: Didanosine may cause numbness, tingling or pain in the feet or hands. This is known as peripheral neuropathy, a nervous system complication of both the disease and this medication. If you experience these symptoms, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Portal hypertension: Portal hypertension (increased blood pressure in the large vein of the liver) may occur with normal use of didanosine. Your doctor will order blood tests to check for early signs of this complication. If you experience vomiting blood or an unusual increase in the size of your abdomen, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Pregnancy: Adequate studies of the use of this medication by pregnant women are not available. This medication should not be used during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.
Breast-feeding: It is not known if didanosine passes into breast milk. Women who have HIV infection are cautioned against breast-feeding because of the risk of passing HIV to a baby who does not have the infection.
Children: The safety and effectiveness of this medication have not been established for children.
Seniors: Seniors have an increased risk of side effects with didanosine. They may require lower doses and closer monitoring by the doctor.