New evidence adds to the growing concern that drug use not ageing causes many of the diseases commonly seen in the elderly.

Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina found that some of the most common prescription and over the counter drugs could produce symptoms similar to those of dementia, glaucoma and other diseases linked with old age.

Collectively, these symptoms are known as anticholinergic effects and can include confusion, memory loss and impaired vision as well as dry mouth, constipation and urinary problems.

Many elderly individuals take more than one type of medication and, often, the effect of the combination is greater than a simple additive effect. The elderly are more likely to be at risk of adverse effects from drugs because their metabolism is less efficient. Calls continue for physicians to be more aware of prescribing habits and of the potential for adverse effects (J R Soc Med, 2000; 93: 457-62).

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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