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Atropine is a natural alkaloid, found, among others, in plants such as belladonna, or Atropa belladonna. Atropine, although most often associated with eye drops, is widely used in medicine. What are the properties of atropine? What are the indications and contraindications for its use? What interactions and side effects should I be aware of when using atropine?

Atropineit is a natural and quite commonly known tropine alkaloid. In the wild, it occurs, for example, in plants belonging to the nightshade family. One of such plants is the belladonna, i.e.Atropa belladonna .

In the old days this alkaloid was used for completely different purposes than today. Roman women, for example, used extracts from the hives of the wolf's berry for cosmetic purposes. After rubbing the extract on the cheeks, they appeared blushes so desired by the ladies (due to the expansion of blood vessels).

Atropine was also used in the past to poison wolves (hence the Polish name of wolf berry) and more, and all because of the fact that atropine in high doses can cause cardiac arrest.

The second quite popular plant containing atropine is the black hen ( Hyoscyamus niger ). Its poisonous properties were already known in ancient Egypt and Persia, and it was used, for example, to poison arrows. In the Middle Ages, it was considered a magical plant. It was one of the ingredients of the amorous drinks, and the clairvoyants, after taking it, put into a trance, during which they foretold the future. As a poison, it was used to fight all rodents.

Atropine - how does it work?

Atropine paralyzes the parasympathetic nerve endings by blocking muscarinic receptors (this is a group of receptors located on cell membranes), which inhibits the secretory function of the glands (not only the mammary gland) and relaxes the smooth muscles of the gastrointestinal tract, bronchi and urinary tract, dilating the pupils and increasing the pulse.

In addition, atropine in high doses causes the so-called "atropine coma" (it is an old method of treating mental illnesses - it was used in schizophrenia resistant toactivity of neuroleptics, it is no longer used).

Atropine, although most often associated with eye drops, is widely used in medicine. It affects not only the eyes where it paralyzes the ciliary muscle and dilates the pupils, but also other organs and systems, for example:

  • exocrine glands: here the secretion of sweat, saliva, digestive enzymes, bronchial mucus is inhibited
  • heart muscle: heart rate increases and cardiac output increases
  • urinary system: atropine in this case reduces the tension of the smooth muscles of the bladder walls and ureters
  • airways: relaxes smooth muscles, reduces mucus secretion
  • gastrointestinal tract: reduces the tension of the smooth muscles of the digestive tract, reduces the secretion of gastric juice, slows down intestinal peristalsis. Atropine also has an antiemetic effect

Atropine - application in medicine

Atropine is a drug that today is widely used in various fields of medicine.

In ophthalmology, atropine is instilled into the eyes to dilate the pupils, which enables and facilitates the proper conduct of diagnostic tests. It is also used for some ophthalmic conditions, such as ciliary body inflammation and iritis, and for diagnostic refractive testing in children. This measure dilates the pupils.

In cardiology, atropine is used to treat arrhythmias.

This substance is also used in diseases of the digestive system (i.e. in spastic states of smooth muscles in the abdominal cavity), including hepatic and intestinal colic and peptic ulcer disease.

It is also important that atropine is used in the treatment of diseases of the biliary tract and ureters, for example in the case of renal colic.

This substance is also used in anesthesiology, and more precisely before administering general anesthesia.

Atropine: contraindications

Like every drug, atropine, despite its indications, cannot always be used. The main contraindications include, for example:

  • hypersensitivity to atropine and other supplements
  • gastrointestinal obstruction, pyloric stenosis, gastric reflux disease
  • it should also not be used by patients driving motor vehicles due to possible visual disturbances

Atropine: interactions

Before starting treatment with atropine,tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking. This drug may interact, and sometimes even endanger the he alth or life of the patient.

Substances enhancing the effect of atropine are, for example :

  • drugs that block histamine receptors (used to treat allergies)
  • tricyclic antidepressants, MAO inhibitors, benzodiazepine derivatives
  • agents that lower the pH of gastric juice (used, for example, to treat heartburn)
  • corticosteroids (administered to treat e.g. asthma or atopic dermatitis)
  • haloperdol

In contrast, digitalis glycosides - used in heart failure - reduce the effect of atropine.

Atropine and alcohol

Drinking alcohol while taking atropine may result in:

  • concentration disorders
  • reflex delay
  • motor coordination disorders
  • deterioration of psychomotor performance
  • excessive sleepiness
  • significant slowdown
  • dangerous fainting
  • and in extreme cases even death

Atropine: side effects

Like all drugs, atropine can also cause side effects. They will not be the same for everyone, it all depends on the general condition of the patient, other comorbidities and medications taken.
The most common side effects include:

  • increase in intraocular pressure
  • pupil dilation, photophobia and blurred vision
  • dry mucous membranes, decreased sweat secretion
  • constipation
  • urinary retention
  • gastroesophageal reflux
  • acceleration and abnormal heart rhythm
  • sleepiness or anxiety and over-excitement
  • allergic reactions, e.g. hives, reddening of the skin, increase in body temperature

Pregnancy and lactation versus treatment with atropine

Unfortunately, it is not yet known whether this drug may pose a risk to the fetus, as there are no specific studies that would provide an answer to this issue. The same is true of atropine treatment and breastfeeding. Nobody has conducted any credible research that could be relied upon.

Therefore, it is assumed that this product may be used during pregnancy only when, in the opinion of the doctor, the benefit for the mother outweighs the potential risk to the fetus.

About the authorKarolina NowakA pharmaceutical technician by education. Currently, he is professionally fulfilled working in a pharmacy. Empathetic, sensitive and fond of contact with other people. Privatelya lover of a good book.

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