It’s no secret that many medications can cause a range of side effects, including, confusion, sedation, sleepiness, and low blood pressure. But did you know that they can affect the way you walk and your balance too?
Those side effects can lead to gait and balance changes, especially if you take four or more drugs a day. Here is a partial list of drugs associated with gait disturbances:
• Analgesics used to relieve pain, particularly opiates
• Antiarrhythmics, including amiodarone, flecainide, and sotalol
• Anticonvulsants, or anti-epileptic drugs, such as phenobarbital, gabapentin, pregabalin, valproic acid, and lamotrigine
• Antidepressants, especially tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as amitriptyline, nortriptyline, citalopram, escitalopram, paroxetine, and fluoxetine
• Antihypertensives, including diuretics, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptors, calcium-channel blockers, alpha-blockers, beta-blockers, central agonists, peripheral adrenergic inhibitors, and blood vessel dilators
• Antiparkinson agents, such as levodopa, dopamine agonists, anticholinergics, MAO-B inhibitors, and COMT inhibitors
• Antipsychotics used to treat mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, agitation in dementia, and schizophrenia. Examples include aripiprazole, haloperidol, fluphenazine, and risperidone
• Benzodiazepines and hypnotics used to treat anxiety and insomnia, such as alprazolam, diazepam, eszopiclone, lorazepam, triazolam, zaleplon, and zolpidem
Laird Harrison writes about science and medicine. His work has appeared magazines (TIME, Audubon, Discover, Men’s Fitness, Health), newspapers (San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press); and Web sites (Salon, Reuters, MSNBC, CNN.com). He has produced video for Web sites including Smithsonianmag.com and audio for KQED and WUNC public media stations. His recent novel, Fallen Lake, tells the story of a powerful attraction between two couples and how it affected their children. Harrison has taught writing at San Francisco State University, UC Berkeley Extension and Mediabistro. He grew up in Berkeley, California, and studied creative writing and politics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He lives in Oakland, California.