The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Friday, August 16, 2013

LBD and Drugs, Part 5: Lewy-safe Drugs and Alternatives

With so many Lewy-sensitive drugs, caregivers become concerned about all drugs. However, many, such as antibiotics, are fairly safe—or at least as safe for PwLBD as they are for anyone else.

 These are some of the conditions that make caregivers concerned:

Infections: Antibiotics and sulfa drugs, usually prescribed for infections, are seldom Lewy-sensitive. However, when used to prevent infections, they can become ineffective and stronger drugs will be required. This is true for everyone, not just the PwLBD. We should all practice infection prevention instead:
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle with adequate fluids, sleep, exercise and a nutritious diet.
  • Drink cranberry juice to avoid urinary tract infections. Once there is an infection, this does not good. Medication is required.
  • Take Vitamin C, especially for upper respiratory infections.
  • Use good toileting hygiene, which may not be easy if your loved one is still managing his own but is very important especially when UTIs are common. 
  • When adult diapers are used, change often and clean the skin carefully between use.
  • Wash hands often.
  • Don’t share eating and drinking utensils.
  • Sneeze or cough into your sleeve or shoulder.
  • Avoid areas of contamination. For instance, avoid groups when the flu is around.
Depression: Antidepressants fall into several classes. The oldest, tricyclics and monoamine oxidasse inhibitors (MAOIs) are not recommended with LBD. Tricyclics such as Elavil are strong sedatives and MAOIs such as Nardil are strong anticholinergics. Drugs in the SSRI class, such as Zoloft, are safer and others such as Wellbutrin and BuSpar are mild enough that they are often used for behavior management. All should be started in small doses and monitored carefully.

Muscle cramps: Most muscle relaxants are unsafe for PwLBD. OTC drugs such as Tylenol or Advil help with the pain. Caregiver interventions to prevent the cramps may work best. They include:
  • Check the medication log. (You should be keeping a log for just such concerns.)  Some drugs will cause cramps. Show the log to the physician and ask about changing the medication.
  • Good exercise and less stress will lower the possibility of cramps.
  • Relieve cramps with massage, a warm bath, or distractions that refocus your loved one’s attention.
Pain: For mild pain, OTC drugs like Tylenol or Advil usually do not conflict with LBD. For stronger pain, prescription drugs such as opiates or other narcotics in very small doses might work without conflict while larger doses of the same drugs may cause temporary hallucinations and other acting-out behaviors. Start very, very small and monitor carefully. The same caregiver interventions as those for muscle cramps may also help.

Orthostatic Hypotention (OH): Low blood pressure on rising is a common LBD problem.
  • Medication: Check with your physician for Lewy-safe medications for this problem. There are several and the need differs with the individual. 
  • Getting up slowly, with waits between rising and walking will also help.
Incontinence: Few drugs that reduce urinary urgency are safe with LBD. Flomax has been reported to work well with few side effects. However, many other caregivers report that it increased the incontinence instead of helping. Thus, an every two hour toileting schedule and night protection (such as Depends) is probably the best solution.

Other illnesses such as heart problem or diabetes: Many drugs taken for other illnesses are safe with LBD but always remind doctors that your loved one has LBD and ask them to check for conflicts. Sometimes the physician is so focused on the immediate problem that the LBD is temporarily forgotten. It must always be taken into consideration with any new drug, as must any other drugs your loved one is already taking.

Next week: LBD and Parkinson's drugs.

The authors of this blog are not physicians. We report what we and other caregivers have learned by experience, from physicians and from the literature. This blog is informational only. You should always talk with a physician about individual issues.

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