Common drugs can mimic ‘diseases of old age’
Some common medicines can produce side effects with symptoms similar to those of dementia, glaucoma and other diseases of old age. Writing in the September Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Dr Jacob Mintzer, of the Medical University of South Carolina, called for “better understanding, assessment and management” of the problem. Drugs with anticholinergic activity are identified by Dr Mintzer as the main culprits which produce side effects mimicking “old age” conditions which include dementia, glaucoma and urinary problems. Dr Mintzer said elderly people in nursing homes were most at risk, with some reports suggesting that 60% of nursing home residents will have received drugs from the anticholinergic group in the past year, compared with 23% of elderly people in the community. Doctors may assume that any side effects are an inevitable part of the ageing process, rather than something which could be avoided by altering existing medication regimes.