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What is atropine?

Atropine is an alkaloid synthetically derived from the dried leaves of the deadly nightshade (Atropa Belladonna). It impedes the action of muscarinic acetylcholine receptors present in the smooth muscles.
There are two kinds of nervous systems in the human body: sympathetic and parasympathetic. Atropine can override the impacts of parasympathetic stimulation. In simpler terms, it reduces salivary secretion, bronchial mucus, gastric juices, and sweating. It increases the heart rate leading to tachycardia (fast heart rate going over 100 bpm).

What are the uses of atropine?

  • Atropine can help to reduce saliva, bronchial mucus, gastric juices, and sweating.
  • It can treat bradycardia and increase heart rate.
  • Administering atropine sublingually (below the tongue) to children suffering from drooling of saliva can benefit them in no time.
  • Atropine can treat muscular spasms of the stomach, bladder, uterus, intestines, and other organs.
  • During surgeries, atropine is administered to prevent saliva, mucus, or any other secretion from entering the air passage or lungs.
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What are the side effects of atropine?

Atropine blocks the action of the chemical neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Therefore, it is also classified as an anticholinergic drug. It has the following side effects:

  • If consumed with alcohol, atropine causes increased episodes of dizziness or drowsiness.
  • Atropine causes blurring of vision. It should not be given to patients suffering from narrow-angle glaucoma.
  • Since it reduces secretions, it can lead to common symptoms like dryness of the mouth, lack of sweating, and worsened urine retention.

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FAQ's

1. How to reverse atropine eye drops?

Atropine eye drops are used to artificially enlarge the pupil. No eye drops can reverse their action. Not even miotic pupil constrictors (which can excessively constrict or shrink the pupil) can do that. Intravenous administration of physostigmine (which increases acetylcholine concentration) can neutralize and reverse the systemic overdose of atropine. However, it is effective only if atropine has been taken orally. Therefore, practice extreme caution when using atropine eye drops.

2. Where does atropine come from?

Atropine usually comes from the deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) from the Solanaceae or nightshade family. Several Solanaceae members produce powerful alkaloids, some potentially toxic. Others also produce food, like tomatoes, bell peppers, and chili. Interestingly, the name ?atropa' came from Atropos, one of the three Fates in Greek mythology. Atropos could choose how a person would die.

3. Are atropine eye drops safe?

Atropine eye drops are widely used for treating myopia, a vision condition characterized by near-sightedness. Recent studies show that a 0.01% solution of atropine can reduce the progression of myopia in children between the ages of 5 to 12. However, prolonged usage leads to local irritation, itching, redness, swelling, and conjunctivitis.

4. How long does it take for atropine to work?

Atropine's pharmacological effects act on the muscarinic acetylcholine receptors. They take only 30 minutes to one hour to come into action. Atropine eye drops take about 40 minutes to act. Its half-life is two hours. Therefore, it stays in the blood and can quickly vanish within two hours.

5. Can atropine be given orally?

You can take atropine in various forms ? orally, in injections, ophthalmic solutions, or ophthalmic ointments. Atreza is atropine that is administered orally. It is primarily used to treat spasms in the uterus, bladder, stomach, intestines, and other organs. Always brief your doctor regarding your medical conditions before taking Atreza. You should not take it if you are predisposed to digestive, lung, heart conditions, etc.

6. How does atropine affect the heart?

Atropine acts on both the smooth and cardiac muscles. In the case of heart conditions, it is mostly prescribed to treat bradycardia or low heart rate. Atropine increases the heart rate and improves the electrical conduction of nerve impulses in the heart muscles, from the atria to ventricles. It affects the parasympathetic nervous system.

7. What is atropine used for in an emergency?

For situations like ischaemic heart disease with marked sinus tachycardia, atropine can be given as a bolus of 0.6mg intravenously. If a dosage of 3mg is given to an adult, it can cause complete blockage of muscarinic cholinergic receptors. The administration is done through the endotracheal tube in an emergency.

8. Does atropine increase BP?

Systemic doses of atropine cause a slight increase in the systolic blood pressure (normal: 120mm of Hg), and a decrease in the diastolic blood pressure (normal: 80mm of Hg). It leads to postural hypotension ? a sudden drop in blood pressure when you get up after sitting or lying down.

9. Does atropine cause tachycardia?

Yes. Atropine acts on the parasympathetic system. Tachycardia ? raised heart rate ? sets in when atropine blocks parasympathetic action on the cardiac muscles. One of the crucial uses and benefits of atropine is treating bradycardia in heart patients. However, its side effects can be myocardial infarction (heart attacks) and premature ventricular contractions (missed heartbeats).

10. Does atropine make you sleepy?

Yes, atropine can make you sleepy. Sedation, drowsiness, and dizziness are some of its side effects. Atropine is used before and during surgeries to sedate the patient and combat bradycardia. When administered to the eye, it causes blurring of vision along with drowsiness. If you consume alcohol with atropine, it exaggerates your sleepiness.

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