Weird Health Problems? Check Your Meds!

While trying to track down the cause of one weird symptom, I find the cause of another.

I’m in generally good health. A bit overweight, perhaps, but still able — and willing! — to move around pretty well. The weight issue and genetics is probably the cause of my high blood pressure, which has been kept under control by medication for the past four or five years.

Unfortunately, one of those medications was costing a small fortune — $80/month. (Yes, I know that you or someone else you know probably takes or has taken medicine that costs a lot more. If it makes you feel better, do tell us about it in the comments. Sadly, costly medicine is a fact of life here in the U.S. Remember that when you vote for politicians who support Big Pharma and insurance companies. Can I get back to what I was saying now?) I decided to see if there was a cheaper alternative when I began seeing a new doctor.

He agreed that Micardis (Telmisartan), which is what I was taking, was too expensive. He prescribed two other medications — Lisinopril and Amlodipine. Together, these pills would cost $32/month. A savings of almost $50.

I started taking them. I monitored my blood pressure with a home device. I had follow up visits. Everything was fine. Medicines were working and blood pressure was well within acceptable limits. End of story.

Or not?

Two Weird Symptoms

About a week or two ago, I began noticing two annoying little health problems. I didn’t think much of them and I don’t even know if they started at the same time.

One was an incessant ringing in my ears — mostly my left ear. Not loud. More like the kind of ringing you have in your ears about an hour after a rock concert at a big indoor venue. Like Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden (1977).

Yes, I know I’m a helicopter pilot and I’m subjected to loud noises quite often. But I also know that I spent $1,100 on a pair of Bose noise-canceling headsets for a reason. Plus, it’s not as if I’m flying every day. And yes, I do drive my Honda S2000 with the top down on the freeway and it is very noisy. But I don’t do that every day, either. And I’ve begun wearing earplugs on the highway just in case it is the car that’s causing the problem.

My ears are clean — I use Q-Tips after every shower. I have no other symptoms related to ear ringing, such as vertigo, headaches, etc. It’s a simple case of tinnitus that’s worse when I’m in quiet places and worse in the evening. Annoying when it goes on for more than a week and shows no chance of stopping.

The other weird symptom is a dry cough. Everyone gets these coughs now and then. You get a tickle in your throat and you cough. The more you cough, the more you feel like you need to cough. (Some of you out there might know another activity that sometimes causes a cough like that.) It a dry cough, though, and nothing comes up with it. Drinking water or sucking cough drops does not help. Oddly, blowing my nose — even if it’s dry — does help. The cough happens periodically throughout the day and wakes me — and my husband and likely the upstairs neighbor — in the middle of the night.

Normally for me, a cough like this signals the onset of a cold. First dry, then phlegmy, then a post-nasal drip, sore throat, and the rest of it. But not this time. Just a dry cough that comes and goes throughout the day. Every day. And every night. And the more I cough, the more I strain the muscles in my chest, so now I’m kind of sore, too.

Finding the Cause

I figured the ear ringing had to do with my new meds, although I couldn’t understand why the symptom didn’t show up for over a month after starting them. So I pulled out the little flyer that came from the pharmacy for each of them and scanned the side effects. As anyone who has ever watched a drug commercial on TV can tell you, all drugs have numerous side effects and these two were no different.

And guess what I found?

One of the side effects of Lisinopril is a dry cough. I did some more research on the Web and came up with a bunch of search results on “Lisinopril dry cough.” This page even explains why the cough occurs in some people. And that it sometimes takes a while for the side effect to appear.

Damn!

The good news is that the cough usually goes away when you stop taking Lisinopril. The bad news is that it might take months to stop.

Of course, no explanation for the ear ringing. At least not in the med pamphlets.

So today I’ll make an appointment with my doctor and see him about the meds and the ear ringing. Hopefully, we can get to the root of both problems and resolve them soon.

The Moral

There are two morals to this story:

  • When taking meds, it’s important to consider possible side effects when otherwise unexplained symptoms begin appearing.
  • If you stay in good health, you shouldn’t need meds or have to worry about side effects.

Lesson learned.

11 thoughts on “Weird Health Problems? Check Your Meds!

  1. Had a somewhat similar problem last year. With me it was vertigo, nausea and as I thought and confirmed low B/P.

    My doctor immediately reduced my Lisinopril to 1/2 the dosage that I was taking.

    It took over a year for my symptoms to show up, but I knew something was not quite right. Several tests showed no other abnormalities other than the low B/P which I had suspected all along.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Maria, I had three bad reactions to Lisinopril but I took it it for about two years before the symptoms were bad enough to find out what was wrong.

    The first condition I developed started soon after I started it. First I started getting charlie-horses in my feet. They were really painful and I had no idea what set them off. Then my feet started feeling like they were freezing if even a cool breeze hit them, so in AZ right before I left, our air conditioner would make my feet feel icy while the rest of me felt fine.

    After I moved to Alaska the damage to the nerves in my feet became worse until I felt like I was wearing ice knee- socks, my toes would turn translucent white, and then little bumps would form on my toes that looked like the beginnings of ulcerations. Well, I’ve worked with diabetics who’ve lost limbs and kidneys and whose feet did develop ulcers so I was alarmed.

    After 1.5 years of taking the med, about the same time the peripheral neuropathy was making itself glaringly obvious and the cramping in my feet was even worse (sometimes the charlie-horses would hit both feet at the same time!), I developed asthma. At first I thought it was anxiety attacks even though I’d never had one in my life. I didn’t know why else out of the blue I would suddenly feel like my chest was tight and I was breathing thick smoke. However, after a few months it was clear I was having asthma attacks. One night I was gasping for air so hard I almost went to the ER and my back hurt for days afterward from the strain.

    Soon after that bad asthma attack, my heart started beating erratically. It would just pause. Beat, beat, paaaaauuuse. Beat, beat, pauuuuuuuuse. It was a freaky, uncomfortable feeling. I went to the ER for about three hours one Saturday morning (which cost me $2500.00) but it had stopped doing it so the visit was a waste of time.

    Not long after that I went to see my ENT because I have Meniers disease, which was diagnosed when I was in my 30s. Ear ringing is something I’ve lived with off and on for years so I wouldn’t know if it was being worsened by something else. While I was at the ENT appointment I told her about my upsetting symptoms that I could not explain. About twenty minutes after I left her office, she called me and said she’d looked up all of my meds and my symptoms and that Lisinopril was known to trigger asthma, cause nerve damage like my peripheral neuropathy, and erratic heart beating. She told me to stop taking it immediately.

    After I quit taking it, the heart problem disappeared and so did the asthma. The neuropathy improved but it is permanent and so flares up. The cold weather up here is not good for it. At least I don’t feel like I have ice knee- socks on anymore. The discomfort is pretty much only in my toes now.

    Get this, though; it turned out I’d been on different blood pressure meds for Years when I don’t really even have high blood pressure! My blood pressure spikes once in awhile, that’s all. Usually right before a migraine headache. A long time ago I was at my doctor’s when it was spiking, she said I needed meds for it, and every doctor I’ve had since just automatically continued me on them without reassessing. So I wasted more money than I want to count on meds I didn’t need and I’m left with peripheral neuropathy in my feet too.

    One thing that really disturbs me is that I’d told my primary doctor up here about all of those symptoms as they cropped up and he didn’t once consider looking at my meds. He just said not to get cold (right, in Alaska), and he gave me an expensive EKG, sent me for another heart test, and said I was fine. I told a surgeon about the muscle cramps in my feet when I first moved here and he didn’t say anything about looking at my meds. No one at the ER mentioned anything about considering my meds as a source of the heart pauses. I went to a breathing specialist who said I probably don’t breath correctly, but he didn’t consider taking a look at my meds. Everyone of those medical professionals had the list of what I was taking in their hands when they talked to me. Thank goodness my ENT still acts like a Real doctor! I wish she could be my primary physician.

    Finally, my spouse developed that dry cough you have too. It kept worsening until he was coughing constantly. I harangued him into asking his doctor to take a serious look at his medications, and it turned out it was being caused by one them, I think a blood pressure med if I remember right, but I don’t know which one. Between that experience and bad reactions to statins, I’m feeling pretty turned of the Rx route. I wish he would try to improve his health without the blood pressure med and statins his doctor has him on because I suspect they are causing other problems for him.

    My dad died of pancreatic cancer about four years ago. Like most people who develop that cancer, he was dead six months after the diagnosis. He’d developed diabetes before that (the kind where he had to give himself insulin shots), when he was in his 60s, and he had a stent for a heart problem. I told my doctor there was no history of diabetes or heart problems in our family, and most of my relatives of the older generation came from working poor, malnourished hillbillies who started smoking when they were nine or ten. The only who died young was my grandfather who died from lung cancer when he was in his 70s. I said that I’d noticed that what my father developed, I started developing but at a younger age. I have the Menier’s disease like he did but worse and I’m going deaf. My blood sugars had reached pre-diabetes levels even though at the time I was very slender and more physically fit than I’d ever been in my life from doing hard physical labor six days a week. I’d even had tenderness and pain that came and went where my liver and pancreas are.

    My dad had a cushy life in his later years, but for most of his life he worked at physical jobs, and his wife managed his diet and health very well, yet he developed those conditions despite being on statins to control his cholesterol. I did not have the same lifestyle as my father and ancestors because most of my adult life I have not worked at physical jobs like they did. We both came from the same genetic stock of people with no diabetes, no heart problems, very few cancers among the entire lot of them, none of them going deaf. The only common denominator between us and our similar to same health problems that I could think of other than genetics, which were hardy, was that he and I took the exact same two statins for years and years. (And I wonder, why did our physicians in entirely different states, with patients of different genders and ages, always switch us to the same drugs during the same time periods? How do doctors decide which drugs to switch to, and why do they decide new one might be better if a patient isn’t complaining about an old one?)

    I thought Zetia (which we’d both been switched to by our doctors) had something to do with his pancreatic cancer, and I was starting to think the Gemfribozil statin might have something to do with the blood sugar levels. Since the statins caused muscle aching in me anyway, which meant they must be doing something harmful to my muscles, I didn’t want to take any of them anymore. I told my doctor I didn’t think it was smart to take something that was damaging me in order to stave off something that I might or might not develop later.

    He didn’t disagree about the statins because of the muscle aching, but he didn’t believe they had an effect on blood sugar levels. He took me in his office and had me look at his Rx info on the Zetia because he wanted me to stay on it. He said to notice it didn’t say anything about cancer. I said no it didn’t but it did say it was linked to pancreas problems and that was enough for me because a year before the cancer diagnosis, my dad had a really bad pancreas attack and was hospitalized for it. My doctor didn’t see it my way, but too bad, I still said I wouldn’t take the Zetia anymore. I didn’t agree diet was the culprit because neither one of us ate a bad diet, but I do think the plastics and cans food comes in, and probably fertilizers and pesticides also are causing endocrinology problems. Still, I suspect pharmaceuticals too.

    Three or four months later I was reading the paper when what did I see? An article about three different tests that indicated a link between the drug that is in Zetia and multiple types of cancer. More testing was in order. It also said that there was no evidence the drug prevented any deaths.

    Because of the way the insurance industry pays physicians for coded procedures and services only, not time spent with a patient, and they have so many codes a day they have to be able to submit to be profitable, I think doctors are too rushed when they are with us to really listen to us or to stop and think critically. I’m just glad my ENT still practices the old-fashioned way. She is always running behind, but that’s fine by me. It means her other patients, are getting her full attention and she is putting a little more thought into their care too.

    • I don’t believe in taking meds on an ongoing basis unless you really need them on an ongoing basis. Surely there’s a med that can be taken just when your BP spikes? Ask your doctor about Clonidine. I’m pretty sure that’s one of its uses.

  3. Same here, Maria – Lisinopril is the hack-cough-culprit. Last July they found an abdominal aneurysm, and then I was bombarded with a spectrum of meds so I could handle the surgery. Although I survived that surgery, my kidneys did not and now it is dialysis for the rest of my life.

    My next target is the elimination of all the heart and other meds I was given pre-surgery. My last medical “treatment” was an appendix, fifty years ago. I am now 79,and still quite robust, all said and done. I tend to believe the reason is that I just don’t take pills.

    At any rate, the aneurysm etc. is the reason I have fallen silent here. So you “medi” article is a good come-back marker for me.

    • I’m really sorry to hear about your health problems. Terrible stuff.

      What I don’t understand is the number of people who start having problems after taking a new med and don’t consult the possible side-effects info to see whether the meds could be causing the side effects. I never expected the meds to be causing my cough and was very surprised to find it listed as a side effect. But, at the same time, I didn’t hesitate to go to the doctor about it and get different meds. The cough is well-documented and several people have mentioned it — yet it seems like I’m one of the few who is actually getting off the med. There are HUNDREDS of high blood pressure meds out there — why use one that is causing known problems?

      That’s what I don’t understand.

      I try Losartan next. Will report back if there are problems with that.

      • To underscore your point of avoiding meds with know side-effects, two meds were prescribed for me that I totally ignored because I examined what they are used for, how they work, their side-effects etc.

        I had to trust the prescriptions given prior to surgery – I had no time to conduct research beforehand, but in the next few weeks I have scheduled examinations and tests to eliminate most of the eight pills I still have.

        Aside from any personal experiences and personal views, Readers Digest could not exist without pill-ads, much as many other publications. The roots of the pill-pushing phenomenon run very deep. We have become a very gullible society.

What do you think?