As you become old, your body starts undergoing a few changes. These changes are very much part of the aging process. One such change – among men – is the enlargement of prostate. Though it is a normal occurrence, it can pose a problem when it turns into a medical condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (or, BPH). Prostate is seen around the tube that transports urine – this tube is known as urethra. An enlarged prostate makes it difficult to urinate and also causes a few other problems. Drugs such as tamsulosin are prescribed to treat BHP. Before starting a course of this medication, it is a good practice to know the side effects this drug may trigger.

One of the first symptoms of enlargement of your prostate is the number of times you may need to visit the bathroom. These visits may often occur during night times. Over a period of time, the frequency of these visits may increase and can occur throughout the day. As per data sourced from America’s Urological Association, an enlarged prostate is more likely to bother men aged 50 years and above. Nearly 50% of men who have reached 60 years of age or more may have this condition, and among men aged above 84 years, more than 88% of them may report such a medical condition.

Urine flows from your bladder through the urethra and when your prostate gets bigger, it starts choking the flow of urine. A continuous enlargement will apply more pressure on your urethra; as a result, you may need to forcibly discharge urine from your system. If left untreated, the muscles of your bladder will soon yield to the constricted passage and may hence start retaining urine within. This is when you feel you have not fully emptied your urinary bladder. This condition shows up as a slow flow of urine, urine getting discharged as a weakened stream, problems while beginning to urinate, frequent urges to pass urine, etc. Inability to empty your bladder may also lead to infections in the urinary tract.

Drugs such as tamsulosin are widely used to treat an enlarged prostate in men. Tamsulosin belongs to a family of medications known as alpha blockers. Such drugs also have other uses. They are used in the treatment of male impotence, treatment of post-traumatic stresses, etc. However, you are not advised to use this drug without the supervision of a qualified medical professional. In some cases, people may try using this drug to treat high levels of blood pressure or hypertension. Such types of self-medication are likely to trigger several undesired side effects.

Side effects of tamsulosin

This drug does not help in getting the prostate back from its enlarged shape. Instead, it helps relax the muscles of your prostate and eases the flow of urine. As a result, you may find it easy to urinate and also, empty the entire contents of the bladder without problems; which means, you need not have to stay up in the night and make multiple visits to the bathroom. Your physician may advise you to take this drug as per a medication schedule. You may need to give some time for this drug to start working; the usual time taken to start seeing results is around 30 days from the day of your first dose.

Common side effects

Most common side effects this drug can trigger are feeling dizzy, drowsiness, confusion, troubles with ejaculation, blocked nasal passages, etc. These are initial reactions of your body when a course of this drug is started. After a while, your body gets used to the ingredients. Hence, the aforesaid common side effects may disappear soon. However, if they persist for several days, you need to talk to your treating physician or the pharmacist without delay.

This drug is also likely to trigger a quick decrease in your blood pressure level. This side effect is likely to occur when you start the dose or when you are taking it after an interval. Hypotension or low blood pressure can lead to falls due to excessive level of dizziness or drowsiness.

Serious side effects

This medication is unlikely to trigger extremely serious side effects. However, fainting is one such serious side effect. You are hence advised to take needful precautions to avoid passing out or fainting. One of the proven ways to avoid injuries is to avoid faster movements; especially, when you wake up from a sleeping position or while standing-up after sitting for long. It is highly recommended to consult your physician if you experience episodes of fainting frequently.

In some males, tamsulosin has triggered a prolonged spell of erection. It is often a painful experience if left to last for more than 3 hours. Prolonged erection may impair the functioning of a few other parts of your body. So, when you experience a longer spell of penile erection, you are advised to talk to your doctor quickly and discontinue the intake of this drug with immediate effect. Your doctor may provide suitable alternatives to avoid repetition of such episodes.

Allergies and hypersensitivity to tamsulosin

You are advised to tell your doctor about all known allergies. If you have had prior allergies to alpha blockers or similar drugs, your medical team needs to be kept aware of the side effects. A few people have experienced serious allergic reactions such as respiratory problems like gasping, feeling dizzy, excessive drowsiness, inflammation of tongue or other oral parts such as throat, persistent itchiness, rashes, discoloration of skin, etc. If you observe any of these symptoms, it is highly recommended to seek medical attention at the earliest possible time.

If you are living in any of the provinces of Canada, you can reach out to Health Canada or contact the nearest poison control center. If you are a resident of US, you can get in touch with food and drug administration (FDA) for needful assistance or call 911 immediately.

Adverse reactions when taken with other medications

When a drug starts working with another medicine, the odds of side effects become higher. It is hence recommended to tell your pharmacist as well as your treating doctor about all the other medications you are currently taking. While making the list of such drugs, include over the counter (OTC) medicines, prescribed drugs, herbal products or drugs and dietary supplements.

A few drugs may interrupt the discharge of tamsulosin from your system. Such an interruption may alter the efficacy of this alpha blocker. Medicines such as antifungals – especially, those belonging to the azole family such as ketoconazole, itraconazole, etc. may have a marked influence on tamsulosin. You may need to exert added caution if you are taking HIV drugs such as ritonavir or antimicrobial medications like clarithromycin, etc.

Tamsulosin is also likely to interact with drugs belonging to the alpha blockers family. For example, drugs such as terazosin, prazosin, etc. are more likely to interact with tamsulosin. If you are already taking medicines for erectile dysfunction or male impotence, you need to talk to your doctor about these drugs. For instance, drugs such as tadalafil and sildenafil may trigger a rapid drop in your blood pressure levels if taken together. Your physician may either alter the strength of dosage or may prescribe less-sensitive alternatives to avoid likely risks of hypotension or low blood pressure.

General precautionary measures to be taken while consuming tamsulosin

Your treating physician needs to know your clinical history – especially, prior medical conditions such as glaucoma or other problems in your eyes, hypotension, etc. As this drug can make you feel drowsy, it is highly recommended to stay away from taking alcohol or cannabis. Your physician may advise you to stop or minimize the intake of alcohol. In general, you need to stay away from activities needing high level of mental alertness such as handling heavy machinery, driving, etc. Elderly men may be more vulnerable to side effects; in older men, this drug may trigger conditions such as decrease of blood pressure, excessive drowsiness, feeling dizzy, being in a confused frame of mind, etc. Older men are hence advised to take added measures to avoid falls or fainting. While changing postures, older people are advised to make changes in their postures gradually – for example, from a sitting posture to standing or from lying down to a sitting posture.

Dosage of tamsulosin

Doses often vary based on your age, clinical condition as well as based on the extent your body responds to this medicine. This drug is taken orally as instructed by your treating physician. In most cases, it is administered as a single dose each day. You may be advised to take it at least half hour prior to taking a meal. It is highly recommended to take the dose at the same time every day.

If you have skipped a dose, you are advised to take it once you are able to remember it. However, if the next dose is already coming up soon, you may need to avoid taking the missed dose. If you take two doses in closer time intervals, you may run the risk of an overdose. Side effects of an overdose of tamsulosin are respiratory problems such as slowing down of breathing rate, drowsiness, passing out, etc.

In sum, you need to know that your doctor has prescribed tamsulosin because its benefits outweigh the risks of its side effects. On the whole, this drug is unlikely to cause acute or very adverse side effects. Most common side effects include feeling dizzy, being in a confused state of mind, having troubles with ejaculation, blocked nasal passages, drowsiness, etc. Most of these discomforts may go away once your body gets used to the dosages of this drug. However, in some rare instances, serious side effects such as fainting due to drop in blood pressure levels, rashes on skin as well as respiratory troubles may appear. In such instances, you are advised to take medical help on an emergency basis. You can either call 911 or a local poison control center. Also, stay with added caution while taking it with other drugs. Tamsulosin may adversely interact with a few medications viz., a few drugs taken to treat male impotence or erectile dysfunction, antifungals of the azole category and also with alpha blockers.

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