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Are Uncle’s Medications Contributing to his Fender Benders?

Q. My uncle lives alone and is about to turn 86. He is part of a generation that goes to the doctor regularly and takes whatever is prescribed without question.

He has been dizzy lately and has had a few fender benders with poles in parking lots. I think he is on too much medicine or perhaps the wrong combination.

I want him to ask his doctor about this, but he did not want to question the doctor. He is taking: glimepiride, lisinopril, finasteride, doxazosin, fenofibrate, metoprolol, levothyroxine and metformin.

I love my uncle and want him to have as much independence as possible. If there is a safety issue with his drugs, I will step in for his sake.

A. Doctors may perceive dizziness as a minor side effect, but if it leads to a fall it can be life threatening. Your uncle is taking a number of different medicines that could contribute to his dizziness.

Blood pressure pills such as doxazosin, lisinopril and metoprolol frequently cause this side effect. So can the diabetes drug glimepiride. His other diabetes medication, metformin, can deplete the body of vitamin B12. When levels get low, people may develop numbness in the feet and have trouble walking. Judgment can be affected, which might contribute to his fender benders.

We are sending you our Guide to Drugs and Older People, with a list of medicines such as doxazosin that older people should usually avoid. We hope this will help you in your discussion with his doctor.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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