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Anticholinergics for Cerebral Palsy

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
benztropine Cogentin
carbidopa-levodopa Sinemet
glycopyrrolate Cuvposa, Robinul
trihexyphenidyl  

How It Works

Anticholinergic medicines reduce uncontrollable body movements in people who have dystonic cerebral palsy.

Why It Is Used

Anticholinergic medicines are used to treat muscle stiffness, tremors, and spasms. They are used for people who have a nonspastic type of cerebral palsy.

How Well It Works

These medicines are primarily used to treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease and have not been well studied as treatment for cerebral palsy. Although initially they help improve muscular problems in some people, the gains often are temporary. Over time, the medicine may lose its effectiveness. The baclofen (antispasmodic) pump may work better for people with dystonic cerebral palsy.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine your child takes. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with the medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after your child takes the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother your child and you wonder if he or she should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower the dose or change the medicine. Do not suddenly have your child quit taking the medicine unless your doctor says so.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if your child has:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Confusion.
  • A pounding feeling in the chest (heart palpitation).

Call your doctor if your child has:

  • Hives.
  • Vision problems.
  • Bloody or cloudy urine.
  • Pain or burning when he or she urinates.
  • Problems with urination, including difficulty beginning to urinate, a urine stream that stops and starts, a weak urine stream, a need to strain while urinating, or a sense that the bladder is not empty after urination.
  • A dry mouth for more than 2 weeks.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Dry mouth, nose, throat, and eyes.
  • Dizziness.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Belly pain, upset stomach, or nausea.
  • Constipation or diarrhea.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Dry mouth is common with these medicines. If your older child is physically able to, have him or her chew sugarless gum, suck on sugarless candy, or melt ice in his or her mouth. If your child continues to have problems with dry mouth after about 2 weeks, call your doctor. Dry mouth can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

Because anticholinergics can reduce your child's ability to sweat, help prevent your child from overheating on very hot days. For example, limit your child's time in the sun and give your child plenty of water.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. If your child takes medicine as your doctor suggests, it will improve your child's health and may prevent future problems. If your child doesn't take the medicines properly, his or her health (and perhaps life) may be at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Last Revised September 20, 2012

Last Revised: September 20, 2012

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