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What Is Hydromorphone?

Hives may be an indication of a medication allergy.
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  • Written By: Eric Stolze
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 15 March 2014
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Hydromorphone is a prescription drug that is sold under the Dilaudid® brand name. This drug is an opioid, or narcotic pain reliever, that is similar to morphine, and physicians may prescribe it to treat some moderate or severe types of chronic pain. The hydromorphone drug can cause some serious side effects that typically require medical attention, and it may also interact with other medications. In most cases, a patient can speak with a doctor about this medication to determine if it is appropriate for his individual case. This medicine is available in pill form or liquid form, and an extended release formulation of the drug can often provide continuous relief from pain.

Some patients may develop side effects from the use of hydromorphone, such as convulsions, a slowed heartbeat or shallow breathing. Confusion and cold, clammy skin have been reported by some users of this medication. Dizziness and severe weakness as well as lightheadedness and fainting are also possible with this drug. Less serious side effects that can occur with this drug include vomiting, nausea and constipation as well as headaches, a dry mouth and sweating.

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In some instances, patients have developed allergic reactions to hydromorphone, including skin hives and unusual swelling of the tongue, lips and throat as well as facial swelling. Overdoses of this drug can cause a medical emergency and may be fatal in some cases. Symptoms of an overdose may include pinpoint pupils, extreme drowsiness and a weak pulse as well as stopped breathing. Muscle twitching, intestinal spasms and a bluish color on the lips and fingernails can also occur with an overdose. Patients who take other pain medications, sedatives or muscle relaxants may experience slowed breathing or excessive sleepiness if they also use hydromorphone.

Physicians may advise their patients to avoid the consumption of alcoholic beverages while they take hydromorphone. Users of this drug can also experience impairments in their thinking and reactions that can affect their abilities to drive a car or operate dangerous types of equipment. Individuals with some types of medical conditions, including asthma, kidney disease and liver disease, may receive dosage adjustments and special monitoring from a doctor while they are treated with this medication. Special monitoring may also be used for patients with a history of mental illness as well as individuals with a history of drug or alcohol addiction.

Hydromorphone can become habit-forming for some patients. In many cases, doctors may refrain from prescribing this drug to pregnant women, as it can cause drug addiction in newborn infants. This medication may also pass into a mother’s breast milk and cause harm to a breastfeeding infant.

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