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What is Trihexyphenidyl?

By Jennifer Long
Updated May 17, 2024
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Trihexyphenidyl is a prescription medication used in conjunction with other medications to treat Parkinson’s disease and stop tremors that occur. This medication is classified as an anticholinergic. Anticholinergics regulate or block a specific neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. With the acetylcholine controlled, tremors can be reduced so that they do not occur as often or as intensely.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative nervous system disease. It leads to impairment of the central nervous system. More prominent symptoms include tremors, slow movement, and body rigidity. Other symptoms include difficulty sleeping and trouble talking. In its advanced stages, Parkinson’s symptoms will also include dementia and memory problems.

One of the main causes of Parkinson’s is an imbalance of acetylcholine and dopamine. In Parkinson’s, dopamine levels are low, and acetylcholine levels are elevated. This imbalance allows the acetylcholine to control intestinal function, muscle movement, and sweat gland activity without regulation. Anticholinergic Parkinson’s medications, like trihexyphenidyl, work to restore a healthy balance.

Trihexyphenidyl is most often prescribed as a Parkinson’s treatment for people who are 70 years of age or younger. The main reason for not prescribing a tremors medication to older Parkinson’s patients is the patient's impaired mental status. Younger patients have not usually progressed too far into the disease to experience symptoms other than tremors. Those who have diminished mental abilities or do not have tremors do not generally benefit from this type of medication.

Anticholinergics are generally chosen for use during early onset of Parkinson’s disease. It is during this time that the tremors are most pronounced and cause the most trouble. Blocking acetylcholine can reduce or stop the tremors, allowing patients to lead a more productive life. Although Parkinson’s symptoms cannot be completely cured, the medications can help a person with Parkinson’s function much better.

In general, common side effects of trihexyphenidyl are minimal and will improve with time. These effects include dry mouth, nausea, and dizziness. In rare instances, serious side effects can occur. These effects include itching, trouble breathing, and mouth swelling. Immediate medical attention is needed for these effects and also if hallucinations, mood changes, or an increased heart rate occur.

Trihexyphenidyl is not prescribed alone. It does not have the ability to treat any other symptoms of Parkinson’s because it is only designed to specifically block acetylcholine. Instead, it is used in conjunction with other Parkinson’s medications to create a comprehensive plant to minimize the symptoms and make patients more comfortable.

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