Posts tagged with "Parkinson’s disease"

Bitter pills: High dementia risk linked to category of prescription drugs called anticholinergics

June 27, 2019

Prescription pills that many people take for what ails them actually may be putting them at risk for dementia, results of a study conducted by the UK’s University of Nottingham, Aldermoor Health Centre, and University of Oxford have demonstrated.

The drugs—anticholinergics—are widely prescribed for such conditions as  urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, depression and psychosis, gastrointestinal conditions, and the involuntary muscle movements associated with Parkinson’s disease. Examples include atropine, bentropine mesylate, clidinium, dicylomine, oxybutynin, scopolamine, solifenacin, and tiotroplum—but there are many more.

Anticholinergic drugs are used to block the action of acetylcholine—a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger, that transfers signals between certain cells to affect your body functions, according to Healthline.

The investigation—published on June 24 in the Journal of the American Medical Association–Internal Medicinefound that patients over the age of 55 who took anticholinergic medication each day for more than three years had a 50% greater risk of developing dementia.

“This study provides further evidence that doctors should be careful when prescribing certain drugs that have anticholinergic properties,” Tom Dening, one of the authors and head of the Center for Dementia at the University of Nottingham, said in a press release. “However, it’s important that patients taking medications of this kind don’t just stop them abruptly, as this may be much more harmful. If patients have concerns, then they should discuss them with their doctor to consider the pros and cons of the treatment they are receiving.”

According to a report by Newsweek, the researchers analyzed medical data on nearly 59,000 people with dementia, which they collected between January 2004 and January 2016. Of the records they analyzed, the average age of patients was 82 and about 63% of them were women.

Approximately 57% of the patients in the study received a prescription for at least one strong anticholinergic drug, one to 11 years before being diagnosed with dementia. Although the link found between the drugs and development of dementia appears strong, the researchers noted that their findings are associations and do not show that the drugs cause dementia.

“Further research is needed to confirm whether or not the association between these drugs and risk of dementia is causal. These drugs are prescribed for a number of health conditions and any concerns patients might have about them should be discussed with their doctors,” Professor Martin Rossor, NIHR National Director of Dementia Research, based in London, told Newsweek.

Research contact: @Newsweek

Your ‘wildest’ dreams could offer an early clue to Parkinson’s disease

October 2, 2018

In July, 82-year-old actor Alan Alda revealed that he has Parkinson’s disease—a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement—and in an interview with CBS This Morning, he revealed that an unusual dream helped lead him to his diagnosis. 

Alda, best-known for his portrayal of Army Captain “Hawkeye” Pierce in the TV series M*A*S*H (1972-1983), said he asked his doctor to test him for the disease after reading an article about how physically acting out your dreams can be one of the earliest precursors of the neurological disorder.

“I asked for a scan because I thought I might have it,” Alda said. “I read an article by Jane Brody in The New York Times that indicated that if you have — if you act out your dreams, there’s a good chance that might be a very early symptom, where nothing else shows,” Alda told CBS News.He recognized that what the story described had happened to him.

“By acting out your dreams, I mean I was having a dream where someone was attacking me and I threw a sack of potatoes at them, and what I was really doing was throwing a pillow at my wife,” Alda explained.

At that point, he had no other sign of illness. “The doctor said, ‘Why do you want a scan? You don’t have any symptoms,'” Alda recalled. “And I said, I want to know if there’s anything I can do—I want to do it.”

About 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year, and this number does not reflect the thousands of cases that go undetected. An estimated 7 million to 10 million people worldwide—and about 1 million in the United States—are living with Parkinson’s disease, according to the Parkinson Association of the Carolinas..

Catching the disease in its early stages can be beneficial for a number of reasons, Dr. Claire Henchcliffe, director of the Parkinson’s Disease & Movement Disorders Institute at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian told the network news outlet.

“There are modifiable lifestyle factors that could make a difference, for example exercising and diet. While these are not proven to delay onset of Parkinson’s there is considerable optimism about their role,” she told CBS News. “Making the diagnosis also means that if a person wants to get involved in clinical studies then they can make a real contribution to developing better understanding of and treatments for Parkinson’s.”

Henchcliffe notes that it’s been well documented that sleep disturbances, including having problems falling asleep or staying asleep, and restless legs syndrome, are common in people with Parkinson’s. Over the years there’s been some debate over whether sleep trouble is a complication of Parkinson’s or a precursor of the disease — an early warning sign that surfaces well  before other symptoms set it.

“What’s really turned out to be a critical link is the recognition that certain specific sleep disorders [such as REM sleep behavior disorder, or RBD], not only affect people with Parkinson’s but in fact show up in some cases many years earlier than the movement symptoms that lead to diagnosis,” Henchcliffe said. “So while for some types of sleep disturbances we might still debate whether they are precursors or complications, for RBD there is now extremely strong evidence that it can be a harbinger of Parkinson’s disease that will manifest some years down the line.”

Carlos L. Rodriguez, MD, a sleep medicine doctor at Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, told CBS News that he saw a patient with RBD several years ago who was dreaming that he was playing high school football again in the defensive end position. “He had a clear avenue of attack straight to the quarterback and was rushing aggressively to tackle him when he awoke to find that his head had rammed through the drywall of his room,” Rodriguez told CBS News.

Rodriguez explains that RBD is usually caused by neurodegeneration within the brainstem, which disables the mechanisms responsible for immobilizing muscles during REM sleep—the cycle of of sleep in which we dream. This is what enables someone to literally act out what’s happening in their dreams.

The sleep disorder has been connected to other neurodegenerative diseases, including multiple system atrophy, and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy body disease. In one small study of 26 patients with RBD, fully 80% went on to develop Parkinson’s or another one of these diseases.

Henchcliffe emphasizes that not everyone with RBD is destined to develop Parkinson’s.

“But I do think that acting out dreams in RBD warrants a visit to a doctor to figure out what the cause may be,” she said. ”

Alda told CBS This Morning that one of the reasons he decided to speak out about his medical condition was to send a message of hope to others who might be facing the disease. The actor is still extremely active, taking boxing lessons three times a week, and he recently launched a podcast called Clear+Vivid that explores all the ways people communicate with each other.

“In the very beginning, to be immobilized by fear and think the worst thing has happened to you — it hasn’t happened to you. You still have things you can do,” he said.

Research contact: @Ashley_LizWelch