Anticholinergics: Types and Side Effects

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Anticholinergics are a class of medications that block the action of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine in the central and peripheral nervous systems. They are commonly prescribed for various medical conditions, including overactive bladder, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and gastrointestinal disorders. In this article, we will discuss the types, names, and potential side effects of anticholinergic drugs.

Types of Anticholinergics

There are several types of anticholinergic medications, each with its own specific mechanism of action and indications. Some common types include:

1. Antimuscarinics

Antimuscarinics are the most widely used type of anticholinergic drugs. They work by blocking the muscarinic receptors in the body, which are responsible for the effects of acetylcholine. Examples of antimuscarinics include oxybutynin, tolterodine, and trospium.

2. Antispasmodics

Antispasmodics are a subclass of antimuscarinics that specifically target smooth muscle spasms in the gastrointestinal tract. These medications are commonly used to treat conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and stomach cramps. Examples of antispasmodics include dicyclomine and hyoscyamine.

3. Antihistamines

Although primarily used for allergies, certain antihistamines also possess anticholinergic properties. These medications work by blocking the histamine receptors in the body, but they also have an additional anticholinergic effect. Examples of antihistamines with anticholinergic properties include diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine.

4. Antiparkinsonian Agents

Antiparkinsonian agents are used to manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by a lack of dopamine in the brain. Some of these medications, such as trihexyphenidyl and benztropine, have anticholinergic effects that help alleviate the tremors and muscle stiffness associated with the condition.

Common Anticholinergic Medications

Here are some commonly prescribed anticholinergic medications:

  • Oxybutynin (Ditropan, Oxytrol)
  • Tolterodine (Detrol)
  • Trospium (Sanctura)
  • Dicyclomine (Bentyl)
  • Hyoscyamine (Levsin)
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton)
  • Trihexyphenidyl (Artane)
  • Benztropine (Cogentin)

Side Effects of Anticholinergic Medications

While anticholinergic medications can be effective in treating certain conditions, they can also cause side effects. Common side effects include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Constipation
  • Urinary retention
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Increased heart rate

It is important to note that the severity and occurrence of these side effects can vary depending on the specific medication and individual factors. It is essential to discuss any potential side effects with your healthcare provider before starting any anticholinergic medication.


Anticholinergic medications are commonly prescribed for various medical conditions, but they can also have side effects. Understanding the different types, names, and potential side effects of these medications can help patients make informed decisions and have productive discussions with their healthcare providers. If you have any concerns or questions about anticholinergic medications, it is always best to consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice and guidance.



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