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Don’t Dismiss Drugs That Cause Dizziness

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Some reactions to medications seem so inconsequential that doctors rarely mention them. Dizziness is just such a side effect. What do you know about drugs that cause dizziness?

Blood Pressure Drugs That Cause Dizziness:

On the surface, it seems like a minor problem. This might be because it’s so common. Hundreds of frequently prescribed medications cause dizziness or vertigo. As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt.

In reality, though, dizziness can be a killer. Medications that make older people unsteady on their feet can lead to falls and fractures that may prove deadly.

Dizziness That Led to a Fall:

Here is one reader’s story:

“Six years ago, my 76-year-old mother became very dizzy because her blood pressure went too low. Her doctor wouldn’t change her blood pressure medicine until after I found her passed out on the floor with her breakfast scattered around her. That required a trip to the ER.

“We should all be persistent with the doctor about problems with our meds. I learned from issues leading to my mom’s recent death that too many doctors do not understand the seriousness of the side effects that are prevalent in the elderly and they ignore the Beers Criteria list of inappropriate drugs.”

The Beers List:

Dr. Mark Beers was concerned about drug reactions that would be especially harmful for older people. Dizziness was high on his list of serious complications. Readers who would like to consult the Beers list and learn about other problematic pills will find this information in our Guide to Drugs & Older People.

Other Drugs That Cause Dizziness:

Blood pressure medicines are common culprits contributing to dizziness, but they are certainly not the only ones. Another reader reported her experience:

“I have been prescribed Cipro for infections three times, and each time I had an extreme reaction of dizziness. When I complained, the doctor said I was imagining it.

“Two drugs prescribed for urinary incontinence also made me dizzy and I fell twice. I have had knee replacements and cannot afford to fall.”

It comes as a surprise to many people that antibiotics like ciprofloxacin (Cipro) or bladder drugs such as oxybutynin (Ditropan), tolterodine (Detrol) or fesoterodine (Toviaz) could lead to unsteadiness.

OTC Drugs That Cause Dizziness as a Side Effect:

Other potentially troublesome medications include anti-anxiety agents, pain relievers and sleeping pills. Even over-the-counter products could pose a substantial hazard. The antihistamine diphenhydramine found in allergy drugs such as Benadryl or nighttime sleep aids like Advil PM, Sominex and Tylenol PM could make an older person unsteady. If he had to get up in the middle of the night for a trip to the bathroom, he might fall and do severe damage.

Dizziness as a Withdrawal Symptom:

Younger people can also be held hostage to dizziness, especially when they discontinue certain medications. Stopping antidepressants such as duloxetine (Cymbalta), sertraline (Zoloft) or venlafaxine (Effexor) abruptly may lead to disabling dizziness that can last for weeks.

If you suspect that your medicine (or a combination of drugs) could be affecting your balance or making you lightheaded, be sure to discuss this with your doctor and pharmacist. Point out that such side effects are not only distressing but can be life-threatening.

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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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I have tried several blood pressure meds this past couple of years, and all seem to make me really dizzy. I hate telling the doctor any longer, as I sound like a whiner. Some of the meds I have been on before without problems but no longer can take them because of the dizzy factor. One doctor simply told me there is nothing he can do and can’t really help me. I think he believes I am just trouble but up until a few years ago, I never experienced side affects to meds. Could all the blood pressure meds not work for me? I have had many to date!

You might also be able to lower your blood pressure with diet (DASH) and exercise. Check with your doctor.

You and your doctor may need to keep trying. There are a lot of different types of blood pressure medicines.

I have been diagnosed with Afib, and every med they put me on, and they give me 3 different meds at the same time, that each one the first side effect is dizziness, I am very sensitive to most prescription, and a lot of otc med for allergies and med like that, I told the dr . about being so dizzy, they dismissed my claim, I am 80 yrs old and fell 4 times due to the meds, once going into the dr.

I was going to tell them I am not taking your med any more, that was a year ago, I am now having an episode of afib, and again, they are putting me on med that cause dizziness, so as of today day I am stopping all of the med, I also am the care giver of my 47 yr old paraplegic son, and have to be able to function. and they know this, I pray a lot, if anyone knows what I can take to get my heart rate in the right state, please let me know ,,,, thanks for all of your posts, it helps to know that a lot of folks have this issue …

How about Medical Marijuana, It takes care of a lot of Pain without side effects. Medical Marijuana is called Cannabis, Opioids kill, Cannabis does not.

Several of the above mentioned medications are ototoxic – toxic to the ears, which includes the vestibular, or balance, system. Strong antibiotics, chemotherapy, and loop diuretics are 3 common classes of drugs that can have an ototoxic effect. Dizziness, hearing loss, and tinnitus (noises in the ear) are the symptoms of ototoxicity. Please discuss these symptoms with your physician immediately as they indicate damage (sometimes minor) to the inner ear.

I love all these comments; but it makes me so angry – what exactly do Drs. think they are getting paid to do?? Telling old folks just go ahead and take those drugs!!! Because I SAID SO! People would/could be so much healthier if they would just do a little reading and take their health into their own hands – with help from on line sites such as this also. Nutrition is really your number one aid in your health.

My 85-year-old father was given Getamicin while in the hospital for pancreatitis and removal of gallbladder. He got very dizzy after about 2 weeks on it and that is still not completely gone 11 months later. It is the dizziness that has greatly diminished his recovery and he would otherwise be in good shape now. He has seen multiple ENTs and has told his doctor about it, but the doctor just says it is an unfortunately side effect.

The lady who took Cipro for UTI might like to discover corn silk extract. I had a problem with UTI’s until I learned about taking corn silk extract. If I began taking corn silk extract the moment I felt the pressure of a UTI, I could stop it. It has been several years since I had the last UTI. It is available in both liquid and capsule form. The liquid is better for stopping a UTI but the capsules can be taken daily to prevent UTI.

Since I have been free of the problem for several years, I have not taken any corn silk extract recently but keep it on hand if needed.

I had light dizziness after taking under the tongue vitamin D tablets. It took a few days to figure out what it was, and the Dr said that there is no such side effect. I quit the Ds and opted for natual sunlight.

I recently stopped taking Xanax. I was only taking 1/2 of 0.5. Taking for over ten yrs. I reduced down to 1/4 for seven weeks then quit. I have had many dizzy episodes. After 2 months I got severe dizziness for 9 days straight now with no relief. Is this dizziness from the stopping of the xanax?

My Mother In Law took Fosamax. She was told not to stand for a full hour after taking it. It made her dizzy. I wrote down the names (brand or generic/strengths) of all her medications and took it to a drug store pharmacist she didn’t know. He looked at the list and said at least two of the 6 drugs she was taking could be implicated for causing dizziness and nausea.

She was more interested in traditional medicine than alternative and stayed that way until she passed from a hemorrhagic stroke. Which I believe was partially caused by both drugs and alcohol (her daily highball).

I am grateful that the People’s pharmacist is taking the time to educate people on alternative methods so they are less likely to die from prescribed medicine.

my 92 year old mother has had constant dizziness since being placed on several psyche meds (risperidal etc) & her psychiatrist ignores her complaints. Whats a senior citizen to do who listens to her doctor. Personally I would stop the meds. Suggestions?’

google it for her

I am so thankful for your article. It was a huge break through for me. I have had extreme vertigo to the point where I have been incapable of any movement. After reading your article it hit me that it all started after my last dose of CYMBALTA.
I”ve been on it for 6 years but had to taper down from 60 mg to a 30 mg (7day). Well after I was done with the 30 mg weening, I started feeling the vertigo. It has been over a week now since my last dose and I have extreme side effects. I had to stop CYMBALTA bc my husband lost his job and I can not afford the expensive medicine since we no longer have insurance.
I now know why I can not get over the extreme dizziness over the last 8 days.
I will say that CYMBALTA has been one of the best medications I’ve ever been on. It helped me tremendously with my neuro-muscular pain in my legs, and depression (I’ve cried nearly every day since I have stopped it).
So thankful to have an answer. God bless you for having this info. available.

I had a similar reaction to Zithromax, taken for a sinus infection. I refused to take any more, and was glad I did when I read in your column that Zithromax has been implicated in heart problems in some people.

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