How Meds Can Affect Your Feet

Despite their unobtrusive nature, our feet are imperative to our well-being. When your body is not functioning optimally problems with your feet are often the first indication that something is wrong. Today, with almost everyone taking some form of pharmaceutical, it’s important to be aware of the affects drugs can have on your feet.

Clearly, medications make a difference — generally a positive one — in the lives of many people. But at the same time, all drugs carry side effects — and with many medications, one or more of those side effects can alter your balance.

What medications can cause swollen ankles and feet?

Many drugs can cause swelling in the feet and ankles as a possible side effect. They include: Hormones such as estrogen (found in oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy) and testosterone.

•Calcium channel blockers, a type of blood pressure medication, which includes nifedipine (Adalat, Afeditab, Nifediac, Nifedical, Procardia), amlodipine (Norvasc), diltiazem (Cardizem, Cartia, Dilacor, Diltia, Tiazac), felodipine (Plendil), and verapamil (Calan, Covera-HS, Isoptin, Isoptin SR, Verelan)

•Steroids, including androgenic and anabolic steroids and corticosteroids such as prednisone

•Antidepressants, including: tricyclics, such as nortriptyline (Pamelor, Aventyl), desipramine (Norpramin), and amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep, Vanatrip); and monoamine oxidase inhibitors such as phenelzine (Nardil) and tranylcypromine (Parnate)

•Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

•Diabetes medications

What should you do if your medications are causing swollen ankles and feet?

If you suspect swelling may be related to a drug you are taking, speak to your doctor. Although the benefits of the drug may be worth enduring some swelling, more severe swelling could make it necessary to change the medication or its dosage.

What are the side effects of drugs based on type?

Drug side effects fall into several categories:

Allergic reactions can happen with any drug and can range from itching and rash all the way up to a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction.

Some drugs can’t help but trigger side effects because of their chemical structure. One example is the common allergy drug diphenhydramine (also known by the brand name Benadryl). Though it eases allergy symptoms, it also suppresses the activity of the body chemical acetylcholine, and that leads to drowsiness and a host of other side effects, including dry mouth.

Some drugs typically have barely noticeable side effects when dosed properly. For example, Warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven), used to prevent blood clots, is usually well tolerated, but serious internal bleeding can occur.

Side effects might only happen when certain drugs are mixed with certain other things. These might also be considered drug interactions. Drinking alcohol with narcotic painkillers has caused an alarming increase in accidental overdose deaths. Drinking grapefruit juice can affect several drugs, including some blood pressure and cholesterol medicines.

To find more about a drug’s side effects, information about them is available on the label of over-the-counter drug products and on package inserts or printed materials dispensed with prescription drugs. Because the inserts include such a long list of possible bad effects, it is very helpful to also talk to your pharmacist or doctor if you have any questions regarding a drug’s side effects.

How medications can affect your balance

How? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, common problems include vision changes, dizziness or lightheadedness, drowsiness, and impaired alertness or judgment. Some medications can even affect the inner ear, spurring a balance disorder.

Some of the commonly prescribed medications that can affect balance include:

  • antidepressants
  • anti-anxiety drugs
  • antihistamines prescribed to relieve allergy symptoms
  • blood pressure and other heart medications
  • pain relievers, both prescription and non-prescription
  • sleep aids (over-the-counter and prescription forms)

Sometimes the problem isn’t a single drug, but a combination of medications being taken together. Older adults are especially vulnerable because drugs are absorbed and broken down differently as people age.

If you are concerned about how your medications may be affecting your balance, call your doctor and ask to review the drugs you’re taking, their doses, and when you take them. It is never a good idea to just stop taking a medication without consulting your doctor first.

If you suspect swelling may be related to a drug you are taking, speak to your doctor. Although the benefits of the drug may be worth enduring some swelling, more severe swelling could make it necessary to change the medication or its dosage.

Smoking Hurts Your Feet, Too

Smoking doesn’t just harm your lungs and your heart. It is also a major risk factor for a condition that harms millions of Americans’ feet.

You’ve likely read how smoking can cause lung cancer and heart disease. Now it’s time to read about what smoking does to your feet.

Sometimes a doctor can tell just by looking at patients’ feet whether they smoke, says James Mahoney, DPM, an associate professor of podiatric surgery at Des Moines University in Iowa. The skin on their feet is often thinner, shinier, and reddish in color, he says.

Your feet are located a long way from your heart, which means that even under the best of circumstances, they don’t receive as much blood circulation as other parts of your body. And if you smoke, your body is definitely not working under peak conditions. A condition called peripheral arterial disease — which affects about 8 million Americans — is one way that smoking can seriously harm your feet.

Feet and Smoking: Peripheral Arterial Disease

With peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, a substance called plaque builds up in your arteries, often affecting the arteries that run down the length of your legs to your feet. As the arteries become stiff and narrowed, blood has trouble reaching your feet. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), you may feel leg pain while you’re walking around, and you may notice that sores or injuries on your feet heal poorly, if at all. But in many cases, PAD doesn’t alert you with signs or symptoms.

Patients with PAD have a five times greater risk of dying from issues associated with cardiovascular disease, and more than six times greater risk of dying specifically from coronary heart disease.

In some cases, doctors can improve the circulation through the leg by bypassing a narrowed section of artery by attaching a piece of blood vessel to it, or by pushing a tube with a small balloon on the end through the blockage to dilate the artery. However, if a foot is badly damaged due to lack of blood flow, it may need to be amputated, Mahoney says.

Feet and Smoking: Quitting

If you’re concerned that cigarettes are putting your feet — and other body parts — at risk, here are a few steps that may help you finally quit:

  • Start planning ahead to help prepare yourself for quitting.
  • Talk to your doctor. Several medications — including different types of nicotine products, such as nasal spray, lozenges, and patches — can double your chances of quitting.
  • Avoid triggers. Being around other people who are smoking can make you want to smoke. In addition, drinking alcohol makes you more likely to smoke.

And don’t forget to do something nice for yourself. Since you’re stopping a practice that may give you pleasure, do something fun that keeps your mind off the cigarettes. Taking regular baths or exercising are healthy, stress-reducing ways to distract yourself.

Reference sources:

Blog article written by: Aetrex Footprints Blog

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