Medications That Can Lead to Chronic Fatigue
Do you feel weak or tired - sometimes to the point of exhaustion - much of the time? If so, you're not alone. Chronic fatigue accounts for more than 10 million visits to family doctors every year.
Chronic fatigue has many causes, including illnesses such as anemia and multiple sclerosis as well as depression and other psychiatric disorders. But it's also often a side effect of drugs previously prescribed for other conditions. (I'm not talking here of the complicated disorder known as chronic fatigue syndrome, whose cause is unknown. This condition is characterized by extreme fatigue that can't be explained by any underlying medical condition.)
Could one or more of the medications you're taking be making you feel listless or lethargic? Read below to learn about the major classes of drugs that can cause chronic fatigue. If you suspect that your symptoms might be linked to a medication you're taking, talk to your doctor or health care provider right away. It's important that you do not discontinue them on your own.
1. Blood-pressure medications - may slow down the pumping action of the heart as well as depress the entire central nervous system, or, in the case of diuretics, deplete vitamins and minerals that your body needs for energy.
2. Statins and fibrates - studies show that statins stop the production of satellite cells in the muscle, stopping muscle growth. Some researchers have also suggested that statins interfere with the production of energy at the cellular level in the same way that they interfere with the production of cholesterol.
3. Proton pump inhibitors - are used to treat gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and other similar disorders. More than 20 million Americans take prescription PPIs, including esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec) and pantoprazole (Protonix), some of which are available over the counter.
Patients who take PPIs for as little as three months are at risk of low blood levels of magnesium, which can cause loss of appetite, fatigue and weakness, among other symptoms.
4. Benzodiazepines - commonly known as tranquilizers, are used to treat a variety of anxiety disorders, agitation and muscle spasms, and to prevent seizures. Because benzodiazepines have a sedative/hypnotic effect, they are sometimes used to treat insomnia and the anxiety component of depression.
Commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan) and temazepam (Restoril).
It's important to remember that it takes older people up to three times longer than younger people to flush these drugs out of their bodies. The ensuing buildup of the drug in the body puts older people at a much higher risk for experiencing fatigue and for developing physical or psychological dependence.
5. Antihistamines and antidepressants
Antihistamines - are used to relieve or prevent the symptoms of allergic disorders (such as hay fever) or the common cold. Some antihistamines are also used to prevent motion sickness, nausea, vomiting and dizziness, and to treat anxiety or insomnia.
Older people generally should not use diphenhydramine (Benadryl) - found in any sleep aid with a name ending in "PM" - because of its powerful sedative effects, which dramatically increase the risk of falls and bone fractures.
Fatigue is also a listed side effect of fexofenadine (Allegra), another popular antihistamine. Older people generally should not use this drug because their renal systems are unable to efficiently clear it, allowing the drug to build up in the body.
Antidepressants - while antidepressants are typically used to treat depression, they're also frequently prescribed for anxiety disorders, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, chronic pain, smoking cessation and some hormone-mediated disorders, such as severe menstrual cramps.
There are many different kinds of antidepressants, including tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), dopamine antagonists and lithium, among others.
Commonly prescribed antidepressants include duloxetine (Cymbalta), fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), and venlafaxine (Effexor).
5. Antibiotics - are used to treat health conditions caused by bacteria, including ear and skin infections, urinary tract infections, food poisoning, pneumonia, meningitis and other serious illnesses. They're also used to treat or prevent infections that can complicate surgery or other medical procedures.
Commonly prescribed antibiotics include amoxicillin (various brand names), azithromycin (Zithromax), ciprofloxacin (Cipro) and levofloxacin (Levaquin).
6. Diuretics - sometimes called water pills are used to treat high blood pressure, glaucoma, edema and other conditions.
Diuretics can interfere with the balance of electrolytes - the major ones being sodium, potassium and chloride - in your body. Electrolyte imbalances can cause serious health problems, including extreme fatigue, muscle weakness and achy joints, bones and muscles (along with many other symptoms not related to fatigue).