A new study realized by specialists from the University of Nottingham and financed by the NIHR School for Primary Care Research discovered that the patients that have been taking anticholinergic drugs in the past three years or more and are over 55 are more likely to have dementia.
An anticholinergic agent is a chemical that helps muscles to contract and relax by preventing acetylcholine, another chemical, to send impulses to the nervous system. Anticholinergics are prescribed to treat a diversity of affections, such as COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), bladder problems, allergies, gastrointestinal disorders, and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
They also have limited side effects: the loss of memory, disorientation, but there aren’t many studies to affirm that it raises the risk of dementia certainly. The study, conducted between January 2014 and January 2016, compared the medical history of almost 60.000 patients with dementia and over 200.000 patients without the disease. All of the patients were over 55.
Common Drugs Boost The Risks Of Dementia, New Research Revealed
The researchers noticed that there are undoubtedly risks of dementia for these type of drugs; more specifically, for the anticholinergic antidepressants, antipsychotics, antiparkinson’s, bladder, and epilepsy medication. There were no increased risks in other anticholinergic medicines, such as antihistamines and gastrointestinal remedies.
Tom Dening, one of the professors that conducted the research and Head of the Centre for Dementia at the University of Nottingham, advises medical specialists to be cautious when prescribing medication that contains anticholinergic substances. He also adds that ‘patients taking medications of this kind don’t just stop them abruptly as this may be much more harmful.’ Patients should also discuss with their doctors about the advantages and disadvantages of this treatment and, if necessary, alternative prescription of antidepressants or bladder medication should be taken into account.
What this study tries to do is to analyze and make clear which category of anticholinergic medication is correlated with the most significant risks of dementia. The researchers found that 57% of cases and 51% of controls were given a prescription for drugs that contained anticholinergic substances. They were prescriptions for anti-vertigo, antimuscarinic drugs, and antidepressants. The study also concluded that a proportion of 10% of dementia diagnoses might be connected to the use of anticholinergic drugs. It adds up to around 20,000 of the 200,000 cases of dementia recorded each year in the United Kingdom.