Dementia Related Post

It’s a Neuro… what!?

Gabapentin, sold under the most common brand name of Neurontin.

To start I will have to give a very basic explanation of cells. We are made up of billions and billions of cells, skin cells, muscle cells, liver, nerve and brain cells etc. We are just a mass of cells. let’s look at a nerve that travels from the finger tip to the brain. If we hit the finger, the brain will think it feels the pain, because the nerve cells have passed a message, from one cell to another….saying Ouch! The nerve cells can pass that message from one to another, because of something called a neurotransmitter. The neurotransmitter is the method, or means by with the signal is passed. All cells function in the same manner, they need a neurotransmitter to be able to talk from one cell to anther.

Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that allow signals to pass from one cell to another. There are many different types of neurotransmitters and all play a different role, but basically it will be either to boost the signals, slow the signals, or act to balance this process.

Now, as our body is made up of cells, nerve, muscle and brain cells etc, the functioning of them comes down to the balance of the correct neurotransmitters. This ensures that messages travel from cell to cell at the optimal state, but this is a fine balancing act.

For example: Glutamate is the most plentiful neurotransmitter in the brain and nervous system. It has a vital role in cognitive functions such as memory and learning. It also promotes neuroplasticity, the brains ability to change and grow. Glutamate boost signals. So you may assume that having more Glutamate would be a good thing. However, too much and it can cause cells to die.

The other important neurotransmitter, that works in tandem with Glutamate, is GABA. As I said before, Glutamate helps boosting signals from one brain cell to the next, whereas GABA, works in the opposite manner, it inhibits the signals, Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter and GABA in the main inhibitory neurotransmitter and the two have to maintain an equilibrium.

Glutamate accelerates brain activity, while GABA reduces brain activity!

Where there is an imbalance we get well known problems.

Glutamate imbalance has been related to:

Alzheimer’s disease
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
anxiety disorders
bipolar disorder
chronic fatigue syndrome
Huntington’s disease
multiple sclerosis
obsessive-compulsive disorder
Parkinson’s disease
post-traumatic stress disorder
restless leg syndrome
seizure disorders
traumatic brain injury

Neurotransmitters are produced by bodies, or from what we eat, but they can be manufactured too.

Gabapentin, is one such product.

Gabapentin is similar to GABA, that is where is gets its name. It is called a GABA analogue and it increases the production of GABA in your body. This means that the messages travelling between your brain and nerve cells are suppressed even more.

It is prescribed for several conditions, but mainly for epilepsy, it slows those rapid irregular messages that cause the seizures and it is used for neuralgic pain, because it surprises the pain signals.

I would assume that taking Gabapentin, could have an impact on the balance between the GABA and Glutamate. These are just two of the many, around 200, known neurotransmitters.

A 2006 published study in the British Medical Journal, showed that increased levels of GABA inhibit neurone activity in the hippocampus and interfering with short term memory formation.

The Hippocampus is a vital part of the brain and involved with the storage of long term memory, including knowledge and experiences. Problems related to the brain cells within this organ can leave you with only long term memory and cannot record any new memories or functions.

It is not fully understood how Gabapentin works, so it is used as a trial drug, if it work great, if not, we’ll try something else. This I think is the method by which all medicine is administered. The certainty of some is good, but for the most it is not!

All drugs have to go through a rigorous testing process that takes years. This is to ensure that there are no long term adverse problems that may arise. You would think then that you could be happy in the knowledge that the medication prescribed is safe to take. However, you only have to read the information leaflet that comes with any medication to know this is not exactly true.

The information below is taken from the information leaflet that comes with my Gabapentin. This part of the information took up the majority of this leaflet!

Gabapentin Possible Side Effects:

It starts with this statement; Like all medicines, this medicine can cause side effects, although not everybody gets them.

Contact doctor immediately if you have severe skin reactions or hair loss
stomach pain, feeling sick, or being sick; may be acute pancreatitis
breathing problems that may need intensive care
may cause life threatening allergic reaction
skin rash
swollen glands
swelling of the lips and tongue
yellowing of the skin
unusual bruising or bleeding
severe fatigue of weakness
unexpected muscle pain
frequent infections

It then goes on to say that 1 in 10 may get the following:

viral infection
feeling drowsy, dizziness, lack of coordination
feeling tired
pneumonia, respiratory infections, urinary tract infection
inflammation of the ear
low white blood cell counts
increased appetite
anger towards other,
mood changes
difficulty with thinking
jerky movements,
difficulty with speaking
loss of memory
difficult sleeping
sensitive skin
decreases sensation
difficulty with coordination
unusual eye movements,
increased, decreased reflexes
blurred vision, double vision
high blood pressure
dilation of blood vessels
difficulty breathing, bronchitis, sore throat, cough, dry nose
vomiting, nausea
problems with teeth
inflamed gums
stomach pain
dry mouth, or throat
joint pain
muscle pain
back pain
difficulties with erection
swelling in the legs, arms
difficulty with walking
flu symptoms, weakness, feeling unwell
decrease in white blood cess
increase in weight
Accidental injury, fracture, abrasion.

In then goes on to tell you of less common effects

allergic reaction
decreased movement
racing heartbeat
difficulty swallowing
swelling of the face, trunk and limbs
abnormal blood test… liver problems
mental impairment
increase blood glucose levels, especially if you have diabetes

decreased blood glucose, especially if you have diabetes
loss of consciousness
trouble breathing

It ends by telling you of the side effects reported after the drug was first put on the market for doctors’ to prescribe.

Decreased platelets, blood clotting cells
abnormal movements, writhing, jerking and spasms
ringing in the ears
swollen lymph nodes
yellowing of the skin, inflammation of the liver
acute kidney failure
increased breast tissue
adverse events following the abrupt discontinuation of Gabapentin
difficulty sleeping
feeling sick
chest pain
breakdown in muscle fibre
Sexual functioning problems
low blood sodium levels
anaphylaxis.. potentially life threatening
difficulty breathing
swelling of lips, throat, tongue and hypotension requiring emergency treatment

I just wonder how it is still being used!?

Statistically, I think there must be something on the list that I’ve suffered. In fact there are several, but if the Gabapentin is the cause, I will never know!

This is one of the four drugs that I have been prescribed and all have an impact on the neurotransmitter in my brain cells.

I cannot help but think that these are possibly causing me more problems and this continual prescribing of more drugs to address what are thought of as unrelated problems, which seems to have gone on unchecked for years, only makes this situation and my life worse!?

Please comment on anything I have said. Thank You!