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Even One Medication Can Pose Unwanted Risks To Your Health

Before consigning yourself to long-term use of any medication, always read the fine print to understand the potential consequences.Back in March, we wrote on the subject of “polypharmacy.” It’s that issue common to seniors in which various complaints and lifestyle-related conditions lead to a growing cocktail of prescription medications.

The related risks are obvious and well-documented – unwanted side effects, the potential for harmful drug interactions. According to a 2012 study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), nearly two-thirds (65.9 per cent) of seniors are prescribed five or more types of drug, and more than one-quarter (27.2 per cent) are prescribed 10 or more.

These are extreme examples, but even a single drug runs the risk of unwanted and sometimes severe side effects.

The Perils of Pain Pills

Take common, off-the-shelf pain medications. A Health Canada report last year found that there are about 4,000 hospitalizations a year in this country due to acetaminophen overdoses. It is considered a leading cause of all serious liver injuries, including liver failure.

We recently heard of one case with the family member of one of our patients. Her persistent use of ibuprofen over a period of a year to cope with the pain from a torn rotator cuff has resulted in chronic colitis and food sensitivities.

Prescription opioids, such as the one implicated recently in the death of pop superstar Prince, also come with a bucket full of complications. According to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, use of the opioids typical of prescription painkillers in workers compensation cases can lead to poorer outcomes, longer periods of disability, increased risk of surgery, greater chances of prolonged narcotic use, and higher medical costs.

Antibiotic Angst

Even antibiotics don’t come without small print attached. Take fluoroquinolone (FQ) antibiotics, known by names such as ciprofloxacin (Cipro), gemifloxacin (Factive), levofloxacin (Levaquin), moxifloxacin (Avelox), norfloxacin (Noroxin), and ofloxacin (Floxin).

For years, debate has raged over the risk these drugs carry to spark a condition called tendinopathy – an inflammation or even rupture of tendons. The Achilles tendon, the big one in your heel, is particularly at risk. Anyone with risk factors associated with tendinitis, such as advanced age, history of tendon rupture, corticosteroid use, and/or acute or chronic renal dysfunction, have been advised to use any of these antibiotics with caution.

It comes down to taking control of your health and doing your own research to supplement what you hear from a Doctor or Pharmacist. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to insist on a second or even third opinion. Read that squinty little text on those folded paper inserts that come with your medication.

Cause for Suspicion

Just last week, we had a patient who reported new symptoms in his legs – a fatigue great enough for him to feel that he needs to wear knee braces to remain stable on his feet.

The only thing he reported new was that his family Doctor had recently increased his Lyrica dosage to 150 mg. But he is also taking a lot of other medications – could the increased Lyrica dosage be the cause, or perhaps an interaction between it and one of his other medications?

We can’t be sure, but if you look up the profile of Lyrica, an anti-epileptic and anticonvulsant drug used to control seizures and treat fibromyalgia and pain associated with nerve damage, there is fair reason for suspicion. Common side effects of Lyrica include fatigue, ataxia (loss of full control of bodily movements), and unusual tiredness or weakness.

Pills are no Substitute for Healthy Living

As Chiropractors, we fully support the body’s natural tendency for health and healing without the use of drugs in all but most extreme cases of crisis or trauma. We always urge our patients to fully understand the implications associated with anything they put in their bodies. Before consigning yourself to long-term use of any medication, always read the fine print to understand the potential consequences.

And always consider how changes in your lifestyle habits could be the better alternative. So much of the prescription drug use that’s rampant in our aging and sedentary society wouldn’t be necessary if we just exercised more and ate better.

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