Anticholinergics are drugs that function by blocking the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in the brain. They are derived from plants in the nightshade family, which are typically deadly. Specifically, they work by keeping acetylcholine from binding to its receptor in nerve cells. The nerves in the system affected (part of the automatic nerve system) are responsible for impulses while the body is at rest as well as the involuntary movements muscles in the gastrointestinal tract, lungs, urinary tract, and other parts of the body. They also can help balance the body's production of dopamine and acetylcholine, and are used to treat a variety of different ailments.
These medications can only be prescribed by a physician. Some of the most common anticholinergics include:
Anticholinergics have a wide variety of uses and are prescribed for a number of medical conditions as well as used as used occasionally as a muscle relaxant as part of anesthesia. The conditions treated by these medications are:
Side effects of anticholinergics depend almost entirely upon dosage. You may not experience any side effects while taking these medications, but check with your doctor if you experience anything particularly bad. Overdoses of some anticholinergics may cause death or unconsciousness, so you should seek medical help immediately if you or someone you know may have overdosed on these drugs. Signs of an overdose are generally particularly (and/or dangerously) severe iterations of the various side effects. Possible side effects include:
These drugs should not be prescribed for anyone with myasthenia gravis, liver disease, hypertension, heart failure, hiatal hernia, Down's syndrome, hyperthyroidism, urinary tract blockage, enlarged prostate, glaucoma, tachycardia, or severe constipation. Side effects are often significantly more severe in elderly patients, and doctors usually only prescribe these medications to younger patients. They should not be taken with alcohol. They can also cause a decrease in sweating that can increase body temperature and make exercise dangerous if proper precautions aren't taken. You should consult with your doctor before beginning these medications, and they should not be taken if you've ever had an allergic reaction to any drugs in this class.
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