Scary Side Effects of Medications and How to Manage Them

Scary Side Effects of Medications and How to Manage Them

As you age, you may find yourself with a multitude of medications for different conditions and ailments. Many of these medications can cause side effects that can impair your ability to perform daily tasks successfully and can even pose as a hazard to your safety. It is important to pay attention to the side effects of the medications that you are taking and try to find ways to manage them. This way, you can improve your wellness, safety, and independence.

10 Common Side Effects of Medication

1. Muscle/Joint Pain and Weakness

If you have muscle and joint pain, your muscles and body will feel sore and achy. The pain can be mild, or it can flare up so that you feel sharp pain from time to time. You may also experience trouble when moving around.

RX Saver lists seven medications that commonly cause muscle pain and weakness: (1)

  • Lipitor (atorvastatin calcium) – For cholesterol.
  • Glucophage (metformin) – For diabetes.
  • Klonopin (clonazepam) – For seizures.
  • Ambien (zolpidem) – For insomnia.
  • Xanax (alprazolam) – For anxiety.
  • Ultram (tramadol) – For pain.
  • Omeprazole – For stomach and esophagus problems.

If you are taking any medications that cause muscle or joint pain, you can find other over-the-counter medications that can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. These include aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. You may find it useful to move slowly to avoid sharp pain and prevent falls.

If you are taking a medication that causes muscle or joint pain, it can increase your risk of falling. If this sounds like your situation, an Alert1 medical alert system for seniors can help keep you safe. If you happen to fall, you will have an instant way to contact someone for help. When you press the alarm button, you will speak to a trained agent through the base station of an in-home emergency medical alarm or the 2-way speaker built into an on-the-go personal alarm button. The agent will send the help you need and stay on the line until help arrives.

2. Headache

Some medications can leave your head pounding, throbbing, or feeling tense. Nitrates that are commonly used to treat heart and blood pressure issues can cause headaches. The US National Library of Medicine states, “Cardiac medications containing nitrates may cause severe headaches, which occur in over 80% of patients taking them.” (2)

If you experience headaches, you can try pressing ice packs against your head. You can also try gentle massages, hydrating with water, or dimming the lights. There are some medications that can help headaches, but some can interfere with heart problems. Therefore, it is best to consult your doctor before taking any.

3. Fever

A fever can leave you feeling either hot and flushed, or cold and shivery. According to the National Library of Medicine, “The agents most commonly associated with causing fever include the penicillins, cephalosporins, antituberculars, quinidine, procainamide, methyldopa, and phenytoin.”(3) If you experience a fever, you can try taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Be sure not to take more than the recommended dosage as it can damage your liver or kidneys. Some other treatments that can help you feel better include sleep, rest, staying hydrated, or baths.

4. Bone Density Loss

Bone density loss can weaken your bones and make it easier to fracture or break them. It can also lead to senior falls and fall-related injuries. According to Hormone Health Network, some medications that can cause bone loss include:

  • Glucocorticoids (steroids) – For arthritis, asthma, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions.
  • Phenytoin – For epilepsy.
  • Phenobarbital - For epilepsy.
  • Gonadotropin-releasing Hormone Agonists – For endometriosis or prostate cancer.
  • Aromatase Inhibitors – For breast cancer. (4)

You cannot regain bone density. However, you can take measures to prevent more bone loss. These include eating a healthy diet and exercising. You can also talk to your doctor about medications to help prevent more bone loss.

If you experience bone loss, you can keep yourself safe with an Alert1 emergency button alarm. If you happen to fall and can’t get up due to weakened or fractured bones, you can quickly contact a trained agent by simply pressing a button. With a medical alert necklace, there is no need to crawl to a phone, find the right contact, or dial multiple numbers. As long as you are wearing the device, you always have a fast and easy emergency response solution right with you.

You may also want to consider a fall prevention alarm. When the sensor within the device registers a fall, it will automatically contact a TMA Diamond Certified agent without you needing to press a button. This is useful if you suffer an injury that prevents you from pressing your alert button.

5. Heart Problems

If you start feeling pain, tightness, or pressure in your chest, your medication could be causing heart problems. Winchester Hospital lists common medications that can lead to heart problems: (5)

  • Anthracyclines – For cancer.
  • Antipsychotic Drugs – For mental disorders.
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs – For fevers and pain.
  • Drugs for Type 2 Diabetes – For diabetes.

If your medication causes heart problems, it is important to talk to your doctor for the best treatment advice and health solutions. Ask them if there are any alternative medications. Some common treatments that your doctor may suggestion include lifestyle changes, surgery, pacemakers, or stents.

6. Nerve Damage

Nerve damage is also known as peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is another side effect that can increase the risk of seniors falling. If you can’t use your nerves to properly sense the ground under your feet, you can miss-step and fall.

According to The Foundation of Peripheral Neuropathy, these medications are commonly associated with nerve damage: (6)

  • Anti-alcohol Drugs (Disulfiram) – For quitting alcohol consumption.
  • Anticonvulsants: Phenytoin (Dilantin®) – For seizures.
  • Cancer Medications (Cisplatin) – For cancer.
  • Vincristine – Used to treat various cancers.
  • Heart or Blood Pressure Medications (Amiodarone) – For heart and blood pressure.
  • Hydralazine – For blood pressure.
  • Perhexiline – For unresponsive or refractory angina.
  • Infection Fighting Drugs (Metronidazole, Flagyl®, Fluoroquinolones: Cipro®, Levaquin®) – For infections.
  • Nitrofurantoin – For urinary tract infections.
  • Thalidomide – For certain skin conditions related to Hansen's disease.
  • INH (Isoniazid) – For tuberculosis (TB) infections.
  • Skin Condition Treatment Drugs (Dapsone) – For skin infections.

Some nerve damage is permanent while other nerve damage can be healed. Some common treatments include acupuncture, physical therapy, massages, and assistive devices. You can use a cane, walker, and gripping tools to help you perform daily activities and senior life-saving alert systems to keep you safe.

7. Dizziness, Trouble Balancing

If your medication has dizziness as a side effect, you may feel unsteady, woozy, lightheaded, or faint. This is yet another side effect that can lead to seniors falling. If you are unable to focus on balancing your weight, your strength can give out and you can fall. Mayo Clinic lists five medications that can cause dizziness and difficulty balancing:  (7)

  • Antidepressants – For depression
  • Anti-seizure drugs – For seizures
  • Drugs to control high blood pressure – For blood pressure
  • Sedatives – For anxiety, tension, seizures, panic disorders and sleep disorders
  • Tranquilizers - For anxiety, fear, tension, agitation

If you start feeling dizzy, avoid moving quickly. Try to find a place to sit or lay down so that you can reduce your risk of falling. Drinking plenty of water can help you feel better. If the dizziness worsens or if you develop other side effects, consult your doctor as soon as possible.

A fall detection device can also be useful for seniors who take medications that make them feel dizzy. The fall prevention alarm can contact a TMA Diamond Certified agent for you if it registers a fall. This will ensure that you can get help even if you are unable to press a button.

8. Fatigue

Some medications can leave you feeling low on energy or like you need a nap. If you have been getting enough sleep, but still feel tired, check if tiredness, drowsiness, or fatigue are side effects of your medication. Good RX reports seven medications that can cause tiredness, drowsiness, and fatigue: (8)

  • Antihistamines - For allergies, hives, nasal congestion, itchy rashes, or as a sleep aid.
  • Muscle Relaxants – For chronic pain.
  • Antidepressants – For treating depression.
  • Topiramate – For epilepsy.
  • Beta Blockers – For blood pressure.
  • Narcotics – For severe pain.
  • Benzodiazepines – For anxiety, seizures, and insomnia.

If you are experiencing tiredness due to medications, talk to your doctor about alternatives. If you have some free time, you can nap more often. Some other ways you can help yourself feel more energized include eating healthy, exercising, reducing your caffeine consumption, and going to bed at the same time every night.

An emergency button alarm can provide you with peace of mind and protection if you are concerned about tired muscles or fatigue leading to a fall. You will have an instant and easy way to contact someone for help whenever and wherever you may need it. TMA Diamond Certified agents are available to you 24/7/365. You won’t have to worry about your friend or loved one being awake and available to answer a phone call. The agent will try to keep you calm, guide you through the process, follow protocols, and stay on the line with you until help arrives.

9. Memory Loss

If you start taking a new medicine and find you start to have trouble remembering certain facts and important information, check to see if your medication lists memory loss as a side effect. AARP lists ten medications that can cause memory loss: (9)

  • Anti-anxiety Drugs
  • Cholesterol Drugs
  • Antiseizure Drugs
  • Antidepressant Drugs
  • Narcotic Painkillers
  • Parkinson's Drugs
  • Hypertension Drugs
  • Sleeping Aids
  • Incontinence Drugs
  • Antihistamines

If you experience memory loss issues with any of these medications, ask your doctor or pharmacist about alternatives. You may also find it helpful to do brain stimulating activities such as puzzles, memory games, socializing, listening to music, reading, and exercising.

10. Delirium, Poor Thinking Skills, Behavioral Changes, Confusion

Delirium can express itself in a variety of ways. It is associated with confusion, poor thinking, behavioral changes, and emotional disturbances. According to the Mayo Clinic, these medications are known to cause delirium: (10)

  • Pain Drugs
  • Sleep Medications
  • Medications for Mood Disorders (Such as anxiety and depression)
  • Allergy Medications (Antihistamines)
  • Asthma Medications
  • Steroid Medicines (Corticosteroids)
  • Parkinson's Disease Drugs

If you or a loved one seem to be experiencing delirium due to a medication, talk to a doctor as soon as possible about alternatives and treatments. Some ways to help keep yourself or your loved one safe while experiencing delirium include creating a calm atmosphere, promoting good sleep habits, and getting a fall detection device for seniors.

If delirium is causing you or your loved one to wander out of your home, consider getting a mobile emergency response solution with fall detection. This way, the device can automatically contact a trained agent for help if it registers a fall. The GPS can also aid in pinpointing the location of the pendant wearer so that help can be sent exactly where it needs to go.

Be Safe While Taking Medications with Hazardous Side-Effects

It is very important to be aware of the side effects of your medications so that you can manage them properly and keep yourself safe. If you are taking any medications with any of the side effects on this list, please try to take the proper precautions to prevent injury.

An Alert1 medical alert device can keep you safe in a variety of predicaments. Whether you fall or experience a medical emergency due to the side effects of your medications, a personal alarm button for seniors can give you an instant way to contact a TMA Diamond Certified agent for help. The agent will help keep you calm and get you the help you need so that you can get back on your feet and back to your normal life.

1 RX Savers Editors. Dec. 2017. Prescription Drugs. RX Savers. 10 Common Medications That List Muscle Pain as a Side Effect.

2 Gonzalez, Antonio et al. Oct. 2016. American Society of Microbiology. US National Library of Medicine. Migraines Are Correlated with Higher Levels of Nitrate-, Nitrite-, and Nitric Oxide-Reducing Oral Microbes in the American Gut Project Cohort.

3 Tabor, PA. June. 1986. Drug Intell Clin Pharm. National Library of Medicine. Drug-Induced Fever.

4 Hormone Health Network staff. n.d. Diseases and Conditions. Hormone Health Network. Medicine Induced Bone Loss.

5 Winchester Hospital staff. n.d. Health Library. Winchester Hospital. Drugs That May Lead to Heart Damage.

6 The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy staff. n.d. Other Drugs. The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy. Other Drugs.

7 Mayo Clinic staff. n.d. Symptoms. Mayo Clinic. Dizziness.

8 Orrange, Sharon, MD, MPH. Feb. 2020. 7 Medications That Can Make You Tired. Good RX. 7 Medications That Can Make You Tired.

9 Neel, Dr Armon B. Feb. 2016. Drugs & Supplements. AARP. Caution! These 10 Drugs Can Cause Memory Loss.

10 Mayo Clinic staff. n.d. Diseases & Conditions. Mayo Clinic. Delirium.