Brain And Nervous System - part 3

Anti-parkinsonism medicaments

The general term for drugs used for treating symptoms related to Parkinson's disease is anti-parkinsonism medications. When we talk about parkinsonism, we denote conditions that involve wobbling of the limbs and the head; rigidness of the muscles, an impassive face as well as one's incapability to initiate or control his/ her physical movements. This condition is attributed to a lack of appropriate balance between two brain chemicals - acetylcholine and dopamine. These two chemicals are responsible for transmitting electrical impulses or nerve signals in a particular segment of the brain, which controls or synchronizes our movements. These two brain chemicals have opposing, but complementary actions and usually have an excellent equilibrium. In parkinsonism, dopamine's action is reduced, while action of acetylcholine is enhanced.

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An individual may develop parkinsonism due to various causes. Deterioration of the brain cells that produce dopamine is the most widespread cause for this condition, commonly called Parkinson's disease. Parkinsonism or symptoms related to this condition may also develop due to side effects of specific medications, particularly antipsychotics, and constriction of the blood vessels supplying to the brain as well as brain injury or damage.

Anti-parkinsonism medications help to re-establish the equilibrium between acetylcholine and dopamine. These medications can be classified into two major groups - medications that work to lessen the actions of acetylcholine (such as anti-cholinergic drugs) and medications that work to boost the actions of dopamine.

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While it is not easy to check the symptoms of parkinsonism when the condition reaches an advanced stage, the two types of medications work to alleviate a number of symptoms related to the disease, each better than the others. Anti-cholinergic drugs work to alleviate stiffness better than wobbliness or the incapability to initiate any movement and the benefits of using these medications are experienced in some days of using them. In addition, anti-cholinergics work to lessen too much salivation - often slobbering is a major problem faced by Parkinson's disease patients.

Often, treatment with levodopa results in significant improvement of all symptoms related to parkinsonism. However, levodopa has a number of side effects, counting vomiting, nausea and flushing. When used in large doses, this medication can also lead to involuntary movements of the body as well as in the face.

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While it is possible to alleviate these problems by decreasing the dose of levodopa, it usually becomes difficult to give the patient adequate doses of this medication to alleviate the symptoms and cause no side effects when the disease develops to an advanced stage. Moreover, when the disease enters its later stage, the impact of every dose of the medicine fades even before the subsequent dose is taken. Hence, it may be necessary for the patient to take levodopa more often.

Another anti-parkinsonism medication - amantadine - alleviates all the symptoms related to the disease, especially in people who are suffering from mild to restrained cases. This medication has only some side effects, but its positive impacts may fade after using the drug for some months. The most widespread side effects of other anti-parkinsonism medications like selegiline and bromcriptine are basically similar to the side effects of levodopa.

Nervous system stimulants

The condition of an individual's mental alertness is different at different times of the day. However, it is controllable and always regulated by the chemicals present in the brain. Some of these brain chemicals are depressants or downers and cause drowsiness. On the other hand, others have stimulant properties and intensify alertness.

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It is believed that any augmentation in the activity of chemicals that have depressant properties may possibly be held responsible for a very unusual condition known as narcolepsy, wherein the affected person has an inclination to fall asleep without any apparent cause. Medications that stimulate the nervous system are prescribed to augment alertness. Such stimulants comprise amphetamines and associated medications, especially methylphenidate. In addition, there are drugs, such as caffeine, present in tea, coffee and cola, which stimulate the respiratory system and are prescribed to enhance breathing.

The reticular activating system or RAS is a brain stem segment that governs the level of alertness of an individual. The goings-on in this part of the brain is subject to the equilibrium between different chemicals - a number of which are inhibitory, for instance gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), while others have an excitatory action, for instance norepinephrine. Using stimulants encourages norepinephrine release, thereby augmenting the activities in the reticular activating system as well as other regions of the brain. This, in turn, increases the level of an individual's watchfulness.

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In the case of adults, physicians prescribe the use of stimulants that act on the central nervous system for treating narcolepsy. When taken in measured dosages, these medications enhance alertness allowing the occurrence of normal thought process and concentration. However, use of these stimulants may also have some side effects, such as decreased appetite and tremors. When hyperactive children use these stimulants, these medications help to decrease the common activity level to a further normal level and, at the same time, enhance the period of their attention.

A number of individuals, particularly aged people or those who have been suffering from psychiatric disorders, are especially vulnerable to nervous system stimulants and they are likely to undergo some unwanted side effects, even if they take these medications in relatively small doses. However, extra caution is exercised while prescribing these medications for children, as they have the potential to inhibit growth, especially when they are taken for long periods. When given in large doses, these medications may suppress the nervous system of a child, causing stupor or even potential unconsciousness. The child may also experience palpitations.

Nervous system stimulants also work to diminish the presence of stimulants naturally occurring in the brain. Hence, it is possible that after using these medications regularly for some weeks, a person may become dependent on them for the normal functioning of their brain. In case, these medications are discontinued suddenly at this stage, the activity of the central nervous system may be depressed due to the presence of excess inhibitory chemicals that occur naturally in the brain. This, in turn, may lead to withdrawal symptoms, such as depression, lethargy and enhanced craving for food.

If adults use these medications in excessive dosage or inappropriately, they may cause the brain to become overactive. In such situations, a person experiences severe restiveness, wakefulness or insomnia and feel very nervous or uneasy. In addition, these medications invigorate the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system, resulting in trembling, palpitations and too much sweating. When taken in excessive dosages or more than the prescribed dose, these medications may also pose serious threats to one's health, such as trigger seizures and disturb the mental functioning causing hallucinations and delusions.

Migraine medicaments

Migraines are defined as recurring severe headaches that affect just one side of the head and they are attributed to alterations in the blood vessels. Generally, migraine headaches are accompanied by vomiting and nausea. These types of headaches occur following tingling and numbness in the arms or flashing lights. On many occasions, even the speech of the sufferer may become slurred or impaired. Migraine attacks may also cause disablement. Although the precise reason for migraine attacks are yet to be ascertained, a migraine attack may often be attributed to tension, shock, excitement, physical exertion, a head injury, specific foods and even particular medicines. Usually, people suffering from migraines have a family history of this health condition.

Constriction of the blood vessels in the region of the brain usually triggers a migraine attack. It is believed that specific chemicals present in the ingested foods or chemicals produced by the body are responsible for such attacks. Propranolol and methysergide work to thwart the effect of such detrimental chemicals on the blood vessels, thereby preventing migraine attacks.

The next phase of migraine attacks take place when the blood vessels located in the scalp as well as those surrounding the eyes enlarge, releasing prostaglandins, chemicals that induce pain. While acetaminophen and ASA work to alleviate pain by means of obstructing prostaglandin production, another medication called codeine works directly on the neurons in the brain to change the sensation of pain. On the other hand, sumatriptan and ergotamine work to alleviate pain by constricting the enlarged blood vessels.

Each of the medications mentioned above have their individual side effects. While using sumatriptan may result in a feeling of chest tightness, taking ergotamine may also lead to drowsiness, paresthesia (a feeling of tingling in the skin), debility in the legs, and cramps, in addition to pain in the arms, legs and abdomen.

People using ergotamine should do so very cautiously, especially if their circulation system is poor. This medication has the potential to harm the blood vessels, as it causes them to constrict too much and for prolonged periods. Using this medication too often may possibly cause dependence, in addition to several undesirable side effects, counting headaches. It is advisable that you should be careful not to take ergotamine in excess of what your physician has prescribed for the week. Moreover, people with infections should not use this medication, as it has the potential to check blood circulation to the affected area, thereby, delaying recuperation.

People who are already using ergotamine or have been suffering from angina, coronary heart disease, or hypertension (high blood pressure) should not take sumatriptan.

Similarly, methysergide also has its own side effects. Using this medication may cause abdominal pain and soreness in the lumber or lower back region. In addition, it may also result in shortness of breath owing to an exceptional nature of tissue damage.

Anti-emetic medicaments

As the name suggests, anti-emetic medicines are employed to repress nausea and vomiting. Vomiting (called emesis in medical terms) is actually a reflex action, which protects our body from harmful substances by expelling them forcefully. Some of the widespread reasons for nausea and vomiting include infection of the digestive tract, vertigo, motion sickness, and pregnancy. In addition, nausea and vomiting may also occur due to using medicines and radiation therapy for cancer or as adverse effects of using specific medications.

Some of the important anti-emetic medications include anti-histamines, domperidone, metoclopramide, ondansetron and phenothiazine. These medications are also employed for treating mental ailments. A derivative of marijuana, nabilone may also be used for treating cancer patients who require an anti-emetic drug.

We suffer from vomiting and queasiness when signals originating from different spots in the brain as well as the body invigorate a particular region in the brain, known as the vomiting or emetic center. These signals may originate from the section of the brain that is accountable for our consciousness, from the digestive system and even from the inner part of the ear. In addition, such signals may also originate from a region of the brain known as the chemoreceptor trigger, which triggers the emetic or vomiting center when it discovers the presence of any detrimental substance in our bloodstream.

Anti-emetic medications may work on any such particular site or many sites simultaneously. Besides suppressing vomiting, these medicines may also work to encourage the stomach to empty its contents into the intestine. Apart from preventing nausea and vomiting, majority of the anti-emetic medications may also make an individual feel drowsy or slumberous.

As a result, you may use specific antihistamines, which are non-sedating, to prevent motion sickness. Since antihistamine drugs hinder the functioning of the parasympathetic system, use of these medications may cause several anti-cholinergic side effects, counting dry mouth, problems in urinating and even blurred vision. In addition, use of phenothiazine drugs, which may also cause anti-cholinergic side effects, may also result in light-headedness.

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