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Anticholinergic medications cause a therapeutic or negative effect in the human body by blocking neuronal cholinergic receptors, thereby inhibiting the binding of acetylcholine in the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. These medications have short-term side effects including dry mouth, constipation, visual impairments, or delirium; however, research regarding the long-term side effects is limited. The purpose of this systemic literature review is to determine the correlation between prolonged exposure to anticholinergic medications and the development of dementia. The literature databases PubMed, Cochrane Review, Science Direct (Elsevier), and DynaMed were utilized in this review. Journal articles published within the years 2010-2020 were considered in the literature search. Only 11 journal articles qualified for this study by eliminating articles that did not specifically address a populationaged ≥65 years, use of anticholinergic medications, and symptoms including dementia, impaired cognition, or Alzheimer’s disease. The results of this review concluded the Anticholinergic Cognitive Burden and Anticholinergic Drug Scale were superior at quantifying the anticholinergic burden of anticholinergic medication exposure compared to other scales. Employing these anticholinergic scales, it was determined that individuals using a medication with a higher anticholinergic activity of 2 or 3 have been found to be at greater risk for developing dementia compared to those who are not taking them. An increased anticholinergic burden was also associated with a risk for fall. Further research needs to be conducted regarding the rating system of anticholinergic medications by medical professionals and how to accurately measure the cumulative effects of anticholinergic medications
Physician Assistant Studies
Date of Work
Anticholinergic medications, cholinergic antagonists, anticholinergic mechanism, cholinergic system, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, cognition, cognitive impairment, cohort study, aged, drug safety, anticholinergic burden
Medicine and Health Sciences
Artz Schmaltz, Heidi N., "Cholinergic Antagonist use and the risk of Developing Dementia in persons aged 65 years and olders" (2021). Physician Assistant Scholarly Project Posters. 224.