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Long-term use of certain medications to treat depression, Parkinson’s disease or bladder problems may increase the risk of dementia.
This is the conclusion of a study carried out by the University of East Anglia, in the United Kingdom, and published in the British Medical Journal .
The medicines in question belong to the group of so -called Anticholinergic which are easily available to purchase online in Pakistan.
These block a chemical called acetylcholine , responsible for carrying messages through the nervous system.
However, experts warned that patients who take these drugs should continue to take them, as their benefits outweigh the risks.
On the other hand, the study found that other anticholinergic drugs used to treat common conditions such as hay fever, motion sickness, or stomach cramps do not carry any risk.
Largest study to date
For some time it was known that anticholinergics could affect the ability to think, especially in older people. But it was not clear if they could increase the risk of dementia in the long term.
This study, explains the National Health Service of the United Kingdom, known simply by its acronym in English, NHS, found that some of them (those prescribed specifically for Parkinson’s, urinary incontinence and depression) are linked to a near increase of 10% in the possibility of developing dementia.
The study, funded by the Alzheimer’s Society of the United Kingdom, analyzed the medical records of more than 40,000 patients between 65 and 99 years of age with a diagnosis of dementia between April 2006 and July 2015, and compared them with those close to of 300,000 people without dementia.
He also analyzed more than 27 million prescriptions given to patients by medical services to establish whether or not there was a link between anticholinergic drugs and the development, at a later stage, of a diagnosis of dementia.
This makes it the largest study of the long-term impact of anticholinergics on dementia.
What to do if you are taking anticholinergics
The first thing to do if you’re taking anticholinergic medicines, said Ian Maidment, a doctor at Aston University in the United Kingdom and co-author of the study, is “do not panic.”
“Do not do anything sudden, do not stop taking the medication,” Maidment told the BBC.
“As a patient, if this worries you, go talk to your doctor or your pharmacist, you do not have to go see them urgently.”
“Stopping taking prescription drugs (by the doctor) can have serious consequences,” he added.
“An untreated depression is also a risk because people can die from it, so it’s about balancing the risks.”
James Pickett, research director of the Society for Alzheimer’s in the UK, told the BBC that if we compare the risk of dementia caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, with the potential risk of the contribution of anticholinergics in the development of the disease, this is “very small”.
“We do not know exactly, within the patients who are taking these drugs, who is at greater risk and who is not,” explained the expert.
Martin Rossor, national director of Dementia Research (United Kingdom), said that “it is important to be prudent in terms of connections, since these are not proof of causality”.
On the other hand, says Carol Routledge, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, “the study did not investigate what can cause the link between anticholinergics and the risk of dementia, and researchers should continue in this direction in future studies.”
It is also possible, says Rob Howard, professor of psychiatry at University College London, in the United Kingdom, “that some of these drugs have been used to treat the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s, which may be linked to a lack of mood, lower urinary tract, many years before the development of dementia. “