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Healthy Aging

Is my medication causing these side effects, or is it just aging?

January 01, 2017

Tracking your progress and symptoms can help you discern the difference.

medication side effects or aging
Image: YakobchukOlena/Thinkstock

You probably know that when you take a medication, you need to tell your doctor about any side effects that develop. But being aware of side effects can be challenging when you're older. "In many cases, the signs of aging are similar to side effects of medications," says Joanne Doyle Petrongolo, a pharmacist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Similarities

What you should do

To determine if your symptoms are drug side effects or signs of aging, Doyle Petrongolo recommends keeping good records of your health issues and medication changes. "Keep a chart or a log of all medications taken, and record the medication start date. If a side effect is noted within a few days or weeks of starting a medication, then it is more likely that the symptom is medication-related," she explains.

It may be weeks or months before a symptom develops, but don't wait too long to report a symptom, especially if it interferes with your daily activity. "If it lingers for several weeks, then it is a good idea to speak with a doctor or pharmacist to determine the cause," says Doyle Petrongolo.

The fix

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