The People's Perspective on Medicine

Is Prostate Drug – Tamsulosin – Safe for Women?

Millions of men and women take alpha blockers like tamsulosin to limit nighttime urination. But some serious side effects may not be mentioned.

Q. My family doctor has prescribed tamsulosin for frequent urination at night. I am a 75-year-old woman, and after reading about the side effects of this drug, I am concerned.

I can live with the frequent nightly nuisance, but it would be nice not to get up quite so often. What is your opinion on this?

A. Our first reaction was that tamsulosin (Flomax) is approved only for men with enlarged prostate glands and not for women. Upon searching, however, we found that tamsulosin has been studied and found helpful for reducing excessive nighttime urination in women (Urology Journal, May-June, 2014).

Other Alpha Blockers:

Tamsulosin belongs to a category of drugs called alpha blockers. Other medications in this class include:

  • Alfuzosin (Uroxatral)
  • Doxazosin (Cardura)
  • Prazosin (Minipress)
  • Silodosin (Rapaflo)
  • Terazosin (Hytrin)

Side Effects of Tamsulosin (Flomax):

The side effects of this medication vary in severity. Some, such as fatigue or drowsiness, might not be a problem since you are taking it at night. You will have to determine whether others, such as dizziness, sore throat, back pain or runny nose, pose a problem for you.

Other Side Effects:

  • Sexual dysfunction, lower libido, abnormal ejaculation (men only)
  • Fatigue, tiredness
  • Cough, sinusitis, stuffy or runny nose
  • Low blood pressure, especially upon rising, leading to dizziness
  • Irregular heart rhythms
  • Skin rash (can be very serious; report to MD immediately!)

When people read about side effects such as those listed above they generally zone out pretty quickly. Lists like this seem irrelevant to most people. That’s why we like to share stories from readers to make a seemingly simple problem like “stuffy nose” more understandable:

Jesus in Michigan writes:

“I was prescribed tamsulosin because of kidney stones. The doctor did not tell me about side effects. When I started it the first day at 7:00 PM I was thinking it is not so bad, but the next day I had sinus congestion and problems breathing.

“The sinus congestion caused a headache all day on the job. The second day was not so bad, just a slight headache, but today, the third day on tamsulosin, I again have bad sinus congestion. I am going to go to the doctor to change the prescription or review my options. It is terrible that I cannot breathe well. I would accept this if it was caused by an infection but not if it was brought on by a drug.”

Stephen had a similar problem:

“I’m suffering from kidney stones and was prescribed tamsulosin to help pass them.

“It sure did increase the strength and frequency of passing urine but the nasal congestion I’m suffering has kept me awake for two days straight. It’s that bad. I had to stop using it; have to find an alternative when next I visit the urologist.”

Eric in Coos Bay, Oregon:

“After only one week I have terrible headaches and total congestion of my sinuses so bad I can’t sleep. I have also experienced a strange depression that has came over me. I can’t take that and function right so the Flomax gets tossed starting today.”

Floppy Iris Syndrome During Surgery:

If you have already had cataract operations, one serious side effect won’t be relevant. But if you may need to have cataracts removed in the future, you might want to forgo the drug. It makes the iris floppy, complicating cataract procedures. This reaction may be irreversible in quite a few people.

Stories from readers:

Meghan shared this scary story:

“My Dad had a problem with his cataract surgery (he takes Flomax). They couldn’t get the lens to stay in his eye after surgery. They stitched it in for 2 months, and now he has lost vision.”

Miffa offered this:

“I’m in a similar situation to others who took an alpha blocker, but my ophthalmologist casually dismissed my concerns and said they know how to deal with that now. I’ve also read that stopping Flomax for a couple of weeks won’t help — it takes much longer for it to leave your system.”

Rob had two serious complications:

“I had cataract surgery that failed and required retina surgery that cleared up the hundreds of floaters but never gave me better vision than I had before the surgery.

“When on terazosin I fell and injured a vertebra near my neck and when playing senior softball I began to have serious neck pain (cervical spondylosis) that eventually required having 2 steroid shots in my neck.

“So far so good but had to give up senior baseball and the thought of re-occurence prevents activities I enjoyed.”

Falls: Another Serious Complication:

Dizziness is often written off as a minor side effect, but it can lead to falls. A study in the BMJ (October 26, 2015) revealed that alpha blockers prescribed for prostate enlargement can increase the risk of falls. Men on such drugs had a 15-16% increased risk for fractures and head trauma during the first three months of taking such medications.

Read more about the side effects, interactions and problems with alpha blocking prostate drugs at this link.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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I am a 55 year old female who was prescribed Flomax after a diagnosis of possible stones. After two days the pain was worse, and I ended up in the emergency room with acute pancreatitis. I have no risk factor for pancreatitis.

I am a 57 year old woman and was put on Tamsulosin by a urologist in A&E on my 2nd visit within 5 days in screaming agony. I was surprised to see it isn’t classed as being for women so came to see what everyone thought. Now I find myself even more surprised by people saying they take it in the evening, as my in-pack leaflet clearly says to take after breakfast or the first meal of the day.

I switched to a Plant Food focus eating pattern late 10/14. By early 2/15, I reversed the need for cardiac intervention, was no longer asthmatic, CKD Stage 3 was close to normal range, etc.

Now 11/17 I found I have Pancreatic Elastase Insufficiency, as of today, no diagnosis, but have ruled out pancreatic cancer. Next I find I have very high Oxalate and everything I have been eating is not OK. To top it off there are both a Parathyroid issue and a kidney stone of 7mm.

A friend whose mother is my age (86) also had a 7mm kidney stone and was given Tamsulosin. My first visit with a kidney stone specialist is tomorrow. Any thoughts? I already experience sinus and nose congestion, maybe as a result of Creon. I am not happy and have backed off of Creon. My primary is reaching out to peers for assistance, as the PEI was not known to him treatment wise.

I’m still confused and worried. After reading all of this, I can’t decide if Tamsulosin is safe for me (woman) or not. I don’t know what to do….

I went to the ER with pain in my side, back and pelvic area. After tests, they think I may have had a kidney stone, maybe. They put me on Tamsulosin for 14 days. I am very dizzy every time I stand up. If I run or exercise where my heart rate rises, I feel like I’m going to pass out. I have had a stuffy nose since day two of taking the pills. My body is very tired all the time but I am not sleeping well. Can’t wait to be off this!

I was prescribed flomax after kidney stone lithotripsy. I’m not sure whether it’s because the kidney stone is gone or the flomax works well. I do not have to relieve myself in the middle of the night, and wake up with just a normal need to urinate. (58 yr Female) I have a prescription for 30 days. I think flomax is the best thing ever. I was just looking to see whether it is really bad for me.

Last week I ended up in the hospital with a suspected kidney stone. Drugged up, they sent me home and told me to return the next day for a CT scan, as the X-ray wasn’t clear.

Got the CT done, and a nurse at a&e called me in and told me I has a kidney stone . No mention of size or where it’s located. Gave me Flomax or Tamnic, as it’s called here. Plus, I’m on antibiotics as they think I also have an infection.

Can any women tell me if you still feel the pressure to urinate while on this drug? I’m on day 4 with still no stone passing, I’m suffering from some dizziness, nausea, headache, fatigue but the killer for me is still the pressure pain. I’m drinking plenty of water as instructed.

Tamsulosin was prescribed for me (male) for BPH (Enlarged Prostate). Its really been a wonder drug. I can often sleep straight through the night now without having to get up to urinate. When I do have to go, its a full emptying of the bladder.

I am experiencing some shortness of breath lately but I was suspicious of a beta blocker that I am also taking. My doctor says all medications have side effects; we just have to find the ones that we can tolerate.

The urology group I was going to put me on tamsolusin. It gave me insomnia, I felt dizzy, nauseated & I told my husband & a Dr. I felt like I was pregnant at 72 which has brought lots of laughs??!!? Finally, I have gone to a uro-gynecology group & gotten better answers to my problem & they said to stop the drug ASP. So, I don’t think this is a good drug for women. My bladder has prolapsed & for several months I was running a unexplained low-grade fever. There were some tests done & it was determined I was not emptying the bladder completely & ended up getting bladder infections. Now, I have been taking D-mannose, cranberry pills & juniper berries & haven’t had an infection.

I read the letter from the 75 year old woman receiving tamsulosin for her urinary frequency at night. She should evaluated for sleep apnea. Before I was treated for sleep apnea, I was up 2-4 times a night, but now I that I am being treated for the sleep apnea, I usually can sleep a whole 6 hours before needing to void at night, many times longer! My husband likewise was up several times at night before being treated for sleep apnea and now only gets up once or not at all.

My sleep doctor told me that the mechanism is that the body has been trying more passive ways to get you up because the oxygen level in your brain is getting low. When they don’t work, the last ditch effort is a hormonal response that causes the body to diurese and dump water to the fill the bladder. This urge will wake up even the most deepest of sleepers. Good luck!

I cerainly would recommend that the Lady try the golden rasins & gin remedy to curb her frequent nightime trips to the bathroom. i tried it and it worked for me and everyone to whom I recommended it. Can it possibly hurt to give it a try. It’s high time that the medical professio gave up on the ready use of the Rx pad and got a life.

My husband has been taking Flomax for quite awhile. More than two years.

He was very fit when he started, but has recently been diagnosed with supra ventricular tachycardia, a heart arrhythmia. Now, he can’t exercise at all, and will need an operation to address the arrhythmia.

Jen

I, too, have been prescribed Flomax for kidney stones, but ONLY when I think I have one (or more) and have the persistent low back pain that may be my only clue. Sometimes I have pain in my upper back – before the stone reaches the bladder – and if low back pain follows in a day or two, I can be pretty sure. The longest time I have taken Flomax (once a day) was for 3 days, I believe. Since I do not strain my urine (yuk!) I just have to make an educated guess and see if the pain goes away, indicating the stone(s) has passed. I ended up in ER with my first kidney stone (surprise!) and a couple or few days of Flomax is well worth it to not repeat that experience. Of course, I stopped my supplemental calcium pills and get those 2 quarts of water down nearly every day, which is supposed to help. That seems like a lot of water, but by now I am accustomed to it and it does not seem such a daunting task. And if I think I have a kidney stone I try to increase the amount of water in addition to the Flomax.

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