If you’ve noticed concerning symptoms lately, your first assumption might be that you’ve developed a new health condition. And you should definitely talk to your doctor about your concerns, so that you can explore possible health problems together. But another common cause for mysterious symptoms might surprise you: You could be taking too many prescription medications.
Called polypharmacy, taking more than five prescriptions at once can dramatically increase your risk of side effects. Regardless, the number of people over age 65 who take more than five prescriptions daily has tripled in recent years, from 14 to 42 percent (according to CDC data). And nearly 20 percent of older adults are taking more than 10 prescriptions daily.
We think of serious side effects as rare, but more than 750 adults over the age of 65 are hospitalized for this type of complication every single day. For those taking more than five prescription medications daily, the risk of serious side effects is 88 percent higher than in those taking fewer medications. Plus, your risk of falls rises 7 percent for each medication that you take.
And occasionally, a patient who sees multiple providers might be prescribed medications that each provider does not even know about. This situation can be gravely dangerous, as some drugs interact with one another and cause potentially serious or deadly effects.
When new symptoms appear, it makes sense to rule out side effects from a medication, rather than prescribing yet another. And sometimes a lifestyle change can address the source of the discomfort, so that more drugs are not needed.
Of course, you certainly should not quit taking anything without speaking to your physician. But if you’ve begun to experience strange symptoms, broaching the topic of your prescription medications with your doctor is a good idea.