HOW DO ANTICHOLINERGIC AGENTS WORK?
Anticholinergic agents are a class of medications used to treat various gastrointestinal, bladder, and bowel control problems, kidney stones, and gall stones. Anticholinergics are drugs that block the action of “acetylcholine.” Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter (a chemical messenger) released by the nerves for the contraction of muscles. Blocking of acetylcholine inhibits involuntary muscle movements and various other bodily functions.
Anticholinergic agents work in the following ways:
- They block the action of a neurotransmitter called “acetylcholine” in the central and peripheral nervous systems.
- Acetylcholine is responsible for transferring signals between certain cells that perform specific bodily functions (including digestion, urination, salivation).
- They block acetylcholine from binding to its receptors on certain nerve cells which inhibits involuntary muscle movements in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract, and other areas of the body.
- Anticholinergic agents decrease the acid production in the stomach that slows down the natural gut movements, thus relaxing the muscles in several organs such as the stomach, intestines, kidney, and bladder.
- In addition, they decrease the amount of body fluids (saliva, sweat).
HOW ARE ANTICHOLINERGIC AGENTS USED?
Anticholinergic agents are used for the following:
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Peptic ulcer disease (sores that develop in the lining of the stomach, lower esophagus, or small intestine)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (an intestinal disorder causing pain in the stomach, diarrhea and constipation)
- Abdominal cramps
- Diverticulitis (small, bulging pouches that can form in the lining of the digestive system)
- Cramping pain caused by:
- Kidney stones
- Gall stones
- Side effects of certain medications such as:
- Drugs used to treat myasthenia gravis
- Preoperative medication to:
- Aid relaxation
- Control heart rate
- Lower salivation
- Allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the inside of the nose caused by an allergen)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (a long-term lung condition that makes it hard for you to breathe)
- Overactive bladder (causes a frequent and sudden urge to urinate that may be difficult to control)
- Urinary incontinence
- Parkinson’s disease (a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness, and difficulty in walking, balance, and coordination)
- Frey syndrome (a syndrome that includes sweating while eating [gustatory sweating] and facial flushing)
- Hypermotility of lower urinary tract
- Sialorrhea (drooling or excessive salivation -a common problem in neurologically impaired children)
- Cystitis (inflammation of the bladder)
- Hyperhidrosis (abnormally excessive sweating that is not necessarily related to heat or exercise)
WHAT ARE SIDE EFFECTS OF ANTICHOLINERGIC AGENTS?
Common side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Dizziness (feeling faint, weak or unsteady)
- Dry skin
- Trouble sleeping
- Decreased sweating
Other rare side effects include:
- Urine retention
- Hallucinations (involve hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling, or even tasting things that are not real)
- Memory problems
- Blurred vision
- Trouble urinating
- Trouble breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Loss of coordination
Information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible side effects, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure these drugs do not cause any harm when you take them along with other medicines. Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting your doctor.
Digestive Disorders Resources