Alpha blockers, a type of medication that many men take for urinary difficulties caused by an overgrown prostate, are associated with a dangerous but very small risk of falling, according to a recent study in BMJ. This should reassure men who have heard that the drugs could cause dizziness from a sudden drop in blood pressure.
The Canadian study identified more than 147,000 men in Ontario prescribed one of three drugs: alfuzosin (Uroxatral), silodosin (Rapaflo), and tamsulosin (Flomax). Most of the men (84%) took Flomax, although all three drugs work the same way.
Over three months, men on medication were 14% more likely to end up going to the emergency room or being admitted to the hospital for a fall, compared with men in a carefully matched comparison group who did not take the drugs. In absolute numbers, this means 17 out of every 10,000 men could end up falling because of the drugs, although this type of study cannot actually prove that cause-and-effect relationship.
Many men have been warned that alpha blockers can trigger sudden drops in blood pressure and therefore increase the risk of falls, but not all studies to date have found this. Though the risk of fall attributable to the drugs is relatively small, it could be compounded by other factors, such as taking them along with other medications that lower blood pressure or having mobility problems or a history of falling. It's still worth watching out for side effects if you start taking one of these drugs.