Dementia Could Be Increased By Some Drugs

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Depression, Parkinson’s and bladder problems are treated with anticholinergics, and in England, almost 1.5 – 2 million people are taking these drugs. However, after a new study written by researchers at the University of East Anglia, we now face a new question: what should we do?

Do Not Stop Taking Your Medication

Some of the cases of dementia in patients were linked to the prescription of a large quantity of some anticholinergics. However, experts said that patients should keep taking their treatment, as the benefits are higher than the risks of not taking them.

Some other anticholinergic medicines that are used for treating hay fever, travel sickness, and stomach cramps are not connected with the increase of risk in dementia.

The research was funded by Alzheimer’s Society and you can find it published in the British Medical Journal. It analyzed data from the medical record of 40,770 patients between the ages of 65 – 99 that had been diagnosed with dementia between a period of April 2006 – July 2015. The data was compared to the data of 283,933 people that didn’t have dementia. The research also analyzed over 27 million prescriptions, making this study the first of its kind.

What Do Anticholinergic Drugs Do?

These drugs block acetylcholine which is responsible for carrying signals in the nervous system. Dr. Ian Maidment, from Aston University, said what patients should do:

“Don’t do anything suddenly. Don’t stop taking your medication. As a patient, if you are concerned about it, go and speak to your doctor or your pharmacist. You don’t have to see them urgently. Having untreated depression is also a risk as people can die from that, so it is a question of balancing risk.”

Head research Dr. James Pickett compared the risk of dementia with an unhealthy lifestyle and concluded that the risk of an anticholinergic drug increases the risk of dementia was “quite small”.

Research director Dr. Carol Routledge with the Alzheimer’s Research UK said that researchers that started this study should continue looking more into the connection between “anticholinergics and dementia risk, and researchers will need to build on these findings in future studies.”

Rob Howard, professor of old age psychiatry at University College London has a different opinion, arguing that “It is possible that use of some of these drugs may have actually been to treat the very earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, which can be associated with low mood and lower urinary tract infections, many years before the development of dementia.”

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere