One Pill Makes You Larger, And One Pill Makes You Small!


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I think all of us older people can remember those words from Jefferson Airplane's, "White Rabbit" from 1966. The song was about the use of illegal drugs, even though many people didn't realize that fact. But as I have reached those wonderful "senior years", that song takes on new meaning to me.

As a small child, I suffered from severe asthma, but unfortunately, very few medications were available.  I only took one pill when I had an asthma attack, but I did have to have several weekly injections, and later on, monthly injections, to desensitize me from the numerous allergens causing me to suffer. When I reached my mid-teen years I no longer had to take pills or injections, as my asthma was cured, or so I thought.
In my thirties, I started taking a multivitamin and saw palmetto, a supplement intended to prevent problems with my prostate gland. It wasn’t until my fifties that things began to change, but not for the better. First I developed elevated blood pressure and naturally was given a pill to help lower it. Then I began to pee a lot, especially in the middle of the night. Yup, my prostate was enlarging and I had BPH, benign prostatic hyperplasia. The saw palmetto I had been taking for years to prevent BPH didn’t work at all! So at first, I was given one kind of pill to take each day, and then this turned into two pills a day.
I then noticed my asthma, which had not bothered me for years, seemed to come back.  I used an inhaler for those times I had difficulty breathing, but it didn’t appear to help much. A few years later I was diagnosed with a combination of asthma and COPD. Great, one more ailment to contend with and one more medication to take.
Then along came my golden years, when one day I experienced an episode of Atrial Fibrillation, which sent me to the emergency room, scared as hell! After meeting with my cardiologist, guess what he did? He prescribed more pills! One pill to control my heart rhythm and two pills to further lower my blood pressure.  And I had another surprise, no more alcohol! What a life changer or maybe a lifesaver! Who knows?
Life would be so easy if we could simply take a pill for each ailment. But, unfortunately, that’s not how it works. For every benefit a medication gives us, there is a drawback. Shortly after my experience with atrial fibrillation, my heart rate was fine, but I was dizzy as hell most of the time. There were times walking the aisles of the grocery store I had to stop and regain my balance. I didn’t dare bend over to pick something off the floor, for fear of falling flat on my face. The only time I felt good was when I was lying down. When I contacted my cardiologist he told me I would “get used to it”.
Along with the constant dizziness, I began to suffer from leg pains and daily sinus pressure, which felt as though my head would explode. I don’t think there were two days in a row when I could say I felt good. After suffering for several months and not getting any help from my primary care physician and cardiologist, I switched doctors. After the first visit, my new cardiologist told me I was overmedicated. I went from three pills a day to one pill a day!
After a while, my dizziness became less of a problem, although I still get dizzy bending over or getting up too quickly (postural hypotension). After extensive research into all of my medications, I learned that one of my BPH drugs caused dizziness and destroys the libido, you know, sex life. This drug was prescribed by my primary care physician, not my urologist. At my yearly urologist visit, I asked to be taken off this medication and was prescribed another drug with less drastic side effects. What a difference! Well, at least in the amount of leg pain and dizziness.
Much of the back pain and joint pain that I experience on an almost daily basis is attributed to arthritis, one of the gifts of old age. So, what can I take for arthritis? OTC painkillers, like ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen are the most recommended.  That’s good.  They’re cheap and convenient. But there’s a big problem. With the blood pressure and heart rhythm medication, I can’t take aspirin or ibuprofen. I can take acetaminophen, but that does nothing for my pain.
One of the pills I take for BPH is to help me pee less, but one of the pills I take for blood pressure makes me pee more. To help with my breathing problems I can take supplements, but they either raise blood pressure or lower blood pressure. I can’t take cold or sinus medication for my sinus problems, because they will negatively affect both my blood pressure and BPH. I dread getting a cold because there is nothing I can do to alleviate the symptoms.
I’ve learned that the weather, in particular, the barometric pressure causes my joint pain and my sinus pressure to worsen. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do and nothing I can take. I’ll have to learn to live with it. I also have to learn to live with my breathing problems getting worse in the future. That’ll probably be my demise. As far as the BPH is concerned there are no miracle drugs on the horizon, but advances in surgical techniques look promising. With exercise and a healthy diet, hopefully, my blood pressure and Atrial Fibrillation will be okay.
Modern prescription medications are a godsend to many of us suffering from diseases and ailments of old age. But they can also make some conditions worse, or even kill us. We have to be aware of what medications we are taking and if they interact with each other. Too many of us never question our doctors when we are prescribed medications, and that could be dangerous. Drugs affect each of us differently and we know our bodies better than our doctors. We should always ask our prescribers what the possible side effects or contraindications could be with the drugs we are prescribed.


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