Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells. It is technically a broad term that is used to describe a variety of symptoms which are associated with a decline in memory, thinking or communication skills severe enough to disrupt an individual’s daily activities. The same drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s are among the drugs sometimes prescribed to help with symptoms of other types of dementias.
The brain has many distinct regions, each of which is responsible for different functions like memory, judgment and movement. When cells in a particular region are damaged, that region cannot carry out its functions normal.
According to a report published on dailymail.uk , scientists have linked dementia to anticholinergic drugs, which are used to treat people with epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, depression and incontinence. They found the memory-robbing disorder was more common among people who were prescribed these types of drugs and suggested damage they cause to nerve cells could be to blame.
Although they said anticholinergic drugs should be prescribed ‘with caution’ to middle-aged and older people, they also warned patients not to stop taking their medication. But if the link was found to be a direct cause, the pills could be responsible for as many as one in 10 dementia cases, the experts added.
This association that the researchers found was so strong. They said, that if the drugs were found to be directly causing dementia they could be responsible for 10 per cent of cases.
Ultimately, the path to effective new treatments for dementia is through increased research funding and increased participation in clinical studies. Right now, volunteers are urgently needed to participate in clinical studies and trials about Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Anticholinergics Increase Dementia Risk By Almost 50%
Scientists at the University of Nottingham looked at decades’ worth of prescribing and diagnosis data for 284,343 aged 55 and above in the UK. They found at that nearly 59,000 of the people studied were diagnosed with dementia at some point. The research was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
Professor Tom Dening and his colleagues, who conducted the study explained that their paper only pointed to a link between the prescriptions and the rate of dementia – not a direct cause. ‘This study provides further evidence that doctors should be careful when prescribing certain drugs that have anticholinergic properties’, professor Dening said.
The report noted that the biggest increases were seen in those who took antidepressants, anti-Parkinson’s drugs, antipsychotics, antiepileptic drugs and those used to control bladder incontinence. It also says that the odds of someone developing dementia increased by 49 per cent if they were given the drugs within 11 years of their diagnosis. The scientists said the associations appeared to be stronger in people diagnosed with dementia before they were 80, suggesting the drugs played a greater role for them.
As noted by the researchers, dementia also develops as a result of nerves in the brain breaking down – this is usually Alzheimer’s disease causing a build-up which blocks electrical signals. They pointed out that changes to the blood supply in the brain could also damage it in a way which may provoke dementia, or that anticholinergic drugs could trigger inflammation in the brain.