Self-medication may be an effective way of dealing with mild pain, but people should only purchase medicine from licensed pharmacies and avoid folk remedies advertised on the media or the Internet, a medical official said at a conference in Taipei yesterday.
Su Chien-tien (蘇千田), chief director of the Department of Family Medicine at Taipei Medical University Hospital, said that about 70 percent to 90 percent of cases of mild pain syndrome in the country can be treated with self-medication, but most people choose to bear the pain until they can no longer ignore it.
"This shows that people are still unaware of the importance of proper self-medication and the possibility that the pain may develop into a serious illness," he said at the press conference held to address the issue.
Drawing on his clinical experience, Su said that more than 30 percent of his outpatients -- the majority of whom are above 65 years of age -- sought his advice on pain-related issues.
He added that elderly patients who suffer from chronic pain may be easy prey for folk remedies advertised in radio shows or on the Internet, which may cause their health to decline.
"[People selling] medicine from unknown sources usually exaggerate its healing power or claim the effect is mild, but the medicine may contain steroids. Long-term intake of steroids may lead to pathological changes in the joints or facial swelling," he said.
He urged people not to believe in hearsay or stories about pain relief on the Internet but to go see a doctor or purchase medicine from licensed pharmacies to deal with the discomfort.
Su warned that not every kind of pain should be relieved with painkillers.
People should also seek medical treatment when they feel discomfort that they've never experienced before or the pain is accompanied by other complications such as fever or diarrhea.