Acetylcholinesterase Inhibitors

Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are interesting group of drugs that are used to treat a variety of diseases, including some forms of dementia.


Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors affect the central nervous system, specifically the neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine. Neurotransmitters are compounds that transmit neuroelectric impulses between nerve cells and allow proper function of neurons. Lack of acetylcholine has negative influence on memory and decision-making. Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors block enzyme known as acetylcholinesterase (and possibly some other enzymes), which is responsible for degradation of acetylcholine. This leads to increase of amount of acetylcholine in nerve synapses and helps to relieve the symptoms of dementia.


Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are used for treatment of some forms of Alzheimer's dementia and other types of dementia such as dementia in Parkinson's disease. Some preparations are useful in the treatment of myasthenia gravis and therapy of glaucoma. Glaucoma is treated by acetylcholinesterase inhibitors in form of eye drops that decrease the intraocular pressure.

Used substances

The used acetylcholinesterase inhibitors include active substances such as donepezil, rivastigmine and pyridostigmine.


The side-effects of acetylcholinesterase inhibitors are common, but usually not serious. They include digestive problems such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, muscle weakness, dizziness, headache and malaise. Higher doses of these medications may cause excessive salivation, bradycardia and hypotension.


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources